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September 23, 2009

"Prosecutors Defend False Testimony as 'Truthful, but Inaccurate'"

The title of this post is the headline of this new article in the National Law Journal. Here is how it gets started:

Federal prosecutors in Chicago have asked a judge to reconsider her ruling last month that four convicted drug traffickers deserve a new trial because prosecutors engaged in misconduct.

The prosecutors from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office on Sept. 18 filed a motion for reconsideration in the case, telling U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow that the government witness who she determined gave false testimony at the trial actually "was truthful, but inaccurate."  When taking into account additional evidence not cited in Lefkow's decision and viewing the case as a whole, no finding of misconduct is justified, the prosecutors argued.

I wonder if lots of defendants and other accused of perjury will start taking a page from the government's playbook here and explain false statements as being truthful, but inaccurate.  Perhaps John Edwards and Mark Stanford and other politicians who get in trouble might also be drawn to this interesting approach to revising history concerning past statements that prove to be false.

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September 23, 2009 at 09:27 AM | Permalink


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The problem for the government here is that part of the misconduct cited was the prosecution's highlighting of the non-truthful testimony after a stipulation on the non-truthfulness was entered and read to the jury.

That fact changed the nature of the beast significantly.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 23, 2009 10:07:47 AM

Soronel's right that it's the prosecutors role, not the fact of the false testimony, that led to the judge's ruling.

Also, the government should have vetted the witness before putting her on and they'd have easily identified the impeachment evidence themselves (the suspect was in jail when the witness said he'd been out committing crimes).

Truthful but inaccurate is a common defense in cases of law enforcement and informant lying. That was the (unsuccessful) defense of Tom Coleman, the undercover cop in the "Tulia" cases who was convicted of perjury. Similar to this case, he said the events he described really happened but he just got the dates wrong. The jury didn't buy it.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Sep 23, 2009 10:44:00 AM

It may be honest, but falsehoods are never truthful.


Posted by: Dr Nigel Leigh Oldfield | Sep 23, 2009 11:18:22 AM

From original post...
"Prosecutors argued that they did not knowingly use perjured testimony." Is there any slight,remote,miniscule possibility that this statement may also be perjury? Just curious.

Posted by: HadEnough | Sep 23, 2009 1:03:05 PM

Judging by past data, it's almost certain that DOJ will not discipline these "truthful, but inaccurate" prosecutors. DOJ's unwillingness to punish prosecutorial misconduct is really disturbing:

Posted by: Mike | Sep 23, 2009 1:37:30 PM

The government has an interesting means of promoting respect for the law, like this: 'Let them hate us so long as they fear us.' -- Caligula, Roman Emperor.

Posted by: George | Sep 23, 2009 3:58:11 PM

All eyewitness testimony is truthful (sincere) but inaccurate. No testimony should be allowed in any trial without physical corroboration. The lawyer implants false memories into all witnesses. That false memory become sincere.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 23, 2009 8:41:41 PM

Take the Rules of Evidence, any texbook on Evidence, any case book on Evidence. Throw them in the trash. There is nothing in there that has even reliability statistics, let alone validation. These books should be retitled, "Garbage." Throw them in the trash, everyone would be better off.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 24, 2009 12:58:37 AM

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