This week, my office obtained a conviction for aggravated perjury against a defendant who swore in a writ that he was actually innocent of the sexual assault for which he was convicted. The claim was provably false (because of the defendant's multiple confessions) and he was sentenced to stacked prison time for telling that lie.
We are also trying another defendant for a similar lie (this confession was made during a tape recorded phone conversation).
Under what circumstances do you think it is proper to prosecute a writ writer for aggravated perjury?
I guess I would want to be sure it wasn't a situation where an innocent defendant was counseled to plead guilty because it was "better" than taking his case to trial. I'm sure a past or present defense lawyer will tell me I'm wrong or stupid, but innocent defendants should never plead guilty for any reason. Period.
Other than that one situation, hang 'em. Even if they already have a life sentence. Protecting the system ensures it will work.
Posts: 2130 | Location: McKinney, Texas, USA | Registered: February 15, 2001
I have received some comments from defense attorneys suggesting that prosecuting criminals for lying is wrong. They seem to think that this inhibits them from seeking enforcement of their constitutional rights.
I guess the point is that many writ writers ought to feel inhibited. The Legislature only required that the allegations be true according to the belief of the petitioner to begin with. That seems to leave sufficient room for any valid claim. The penal provisions of our laws only have a deterrent effect when we occasionally demonstrate that they will lead to incarceration. Judicious use of the aggravated perjury statute for those creating new facts or ignoring old ones in 11.07 petitions should serve the public interest.
I hate to sound like Goody Twoshoes, but I am constantly amazed at the number of people who take an oath before God to tell the truth, and then lie to your face. This has become such a problem in our grand juries, that we purchased a Bible for witnesses to put their hand on while they take the oath. We have indicted a few people for agg. perjury before the grand jury.
The problem is present during voir dire, as well. I start each voir dire now with the question: Who consideres your oath to tell us the truth to be a mere formality, and who considers it to be a promise to God Himself to tell the truth. Of course, some people will perjure themselves on that question too.
So far we have not indicted any lying veniormen, but I might in the right case.
A jury returned a second conviction today for aggravated perjury. The defendant, a former police officer, lied in his writ - claiming he was innocent and that the investigating officer tampered with a recorded confession. We used an FBI expert to prove the tape had not been altered.
All the normal spelling rules apply here in Texas, however, in Louisiana, if you were lying, it would be Liar Liar Pants on Fiya. See the song and album (CD for those of you too young to remember albums) by the New Orleans Favorites, the Meters, "Fiya on the Bayou". Or the CD by the Austin Cajun Blues Rock band, Papa Mali and the Instigators, "Mighty Cootie Fiya".
Great Graphic from College Station and great work by the team in Georgetown. These two verdicts this week will have defense attorneys howling for [at least] the next year at CLE. Not to mention those conversations between jailhouse lawyers\writ writers and their "aggrieved clients".
Posts: 37 | Location: Richmond, Texas, USA | Registered: July 22, 2002
I notice in the article you posted, John, that a defense attorney said the Legislature may address this. That sounds spectacular -- a bill that gives a criminal defendant an absolute right to lie. That sounds like some good stuff, and I can't wait for some folks to testify about why a criminal defendant needs that protection.
But Professor Dix makes a good point -- we need to be ready to stick it to a cop if he gets caught. Like, say, the chief of police in Houston who is under indictment this moment for pergury before the grand jury....