Thanks to courts, police perjury remains major problem

According to an old lawyer joke, the best way to tell when a lawyer is lying is to look to see if his lips are moving. That rule seems to apply to cops on the witness stand, too. But “testilying” is no laughing matter. It is undoubtedly a significant factor in many wrongful convictions.

Proving it to the courts’ satisfaction, though, is another matter. As Radley Balko notes here, “The problem isn’t that cops aren’t capable of telling the truth. The problem is that the courts have treated cops as if they’re incapable of lying.”

Alan M. Dershowitz said the same thing in an op-ed in 1994. “Some judges refuse to close their eyes to perjury,” he wrote, “but they are the rare exception to the rule of blindness, deafness and muteness that guides the vast majority of judges and prosecutors.”

Balko argues that this could be changing, thanks to increasing prevalence of video cameras that catch cops in lies, as happened recently in a Chicago-area case. But until video cameras are everywhere, some cops will probably continue to lie as long as the courts allow them to get away with it.

4 responses to “Thanks to courts, police perjury remains major problem

  1. The Balko article and the Dershowitz article reference awareness of the problem 50 years ago and 20 years ago; and here we are facing an unchanged situation today. This is sinful. We need data, and we need sanctions and accountability, and we need error correcting mechanisms built into the system.

  2. How many people are misrepresented by incompetent public defenders who make no effort to go to trial and merely act act as a fraudulent excuse for legal counsel and are forced into a plea bargain ? When combined with the proclivity of police officers blatantly lying in court and judges looking the other way how can anyone call the system anything other than a “criminal ” justice system? This situation is reprehensible and accounts for an undisclosed number of wrongful convictions and is in dire need of a thorough investigation.

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