Thursday, December 1, 2011

Obtaining a Not Guilty Verdict-How To Win Your Criminal Case: The Lying Witness

A jury in essence is a twelve man and woman human lie detector machine.

Very few criminal cases tried in New Jersey courts have anything to do with real evidence or other types of science or forensic evidence as seen on crime drama popular television series such as CSI.  The overwhelming majority of criminal cases have little or no crime scene investigation. 

In reality most case are decided on the credibility of witnesses whom simply tell their side of the story.  From an undercover detective who tells the jury that from 100 yards away, at night, and without any enhanced eye vision he was able to say with 100% certainty that it was the defendant who exchanged a small vial of cocaine in a drug sale, to the lay witness that says that it was the defendant who robbed her at night, a jury of twelve men and women must decide if the witness is telling the truth, lying or simply mistaken.

Unfortunately with most jurors the perception is that with police witnesses they have no motive to lie, and consequently are telling the truth.  In reality, police witnesses even more so than with lay witnesses, will be dishonest with a jury when testifying.  In fact, surprisingly, they often have more of a motive in testifying falsely.  Why this is case is hard to understand and after engaging in the cross-examination of hundreds of police officers I have come to a few conclusions.  First, all police officers engaged in an arrest or engaged in a larger investigation have a vested interest in seeing that their “team to wins”; that is, that law enforcement get their man, and that as they perceive it, “the good guys win."  Second, like most people in general cops want to feel vindicated in their job.  Accordingly, most cops when testify will never admit they made a mistake in their investigation or made something up or fabricate a fact which will make the defendant look guilty.  When the defense attorney smells a lie or fabrication by the testifying  police officer, it is the job of defense counsel to capitalize on such testimony since it often becomes a treasure chest of bigger lies and inconsistent testimony, which in the end should make the officers testimony incredible in the eyes of fair and impartial jury.

Over the years I have learned that witnesses whom engage in such false testimony will begin to testify in certain patterns.

First, for example for every lie someone tells they have to create two or more lies to support the first lie, to protect them from the first one.  Therefore, in this first scenario you will notice how the lies start to become bigger and bigger, and sometimes more and more bizarre.  It is the natural progression of a liar (or lies) in progress.

Second, people who lie have to have a great memory; people cannot remember what they said before if they are lying.  Therefore, in this second scenario you will see that the person lying forgets what they just said a few minutes ago on the stand, or what they had previously testified to on another occasion.  Therefore, when you cross-examine this witness subtly and simply go back to the same question, asked slightly differently, and you will probably hear a completely different, or slightly different answer.  In other words if they continually change there story it is because they are making it up as they go along.

Even people well rehearsed and professional witnesses like police officers who testify in hundred of cases will fall victim to the experienced defense attorney who uses effective cross-examination techniques, if they decide to engage in false testimony.

Third scenario is when someone is lying they will qualify their statement before they give their answer.  For example they will say things like, “we picked up the drugs”, instead of the simply “I picked up the drugs.”  Or, when the person is caught in an obvious lie and then says, “I don’t remember”, or “I don’t recall.” 

Therefore, in closing the jury is the ones who determine whether anyone is telling the truth at trial.  They are in essence, the collective human lie detector test, and if the witnesses for the State, no matter who they are fail, the jury must return a verdict of not guilty as the law and their oath demand. 

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.
December 1, 2011
Elizabeth, New Jersey
Tel. No. (908) 354-7006

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