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Why the Prevalence of Lying by Police is a Problem for the Innocent

By Innocence Staff

The New York Times published an article yesterday that documents the persistence of lies told by police to gain a conviction. Through their investigation, the Times discovered that in more than 25 instances since 2015, judges or prosecutors concluded that a New York City police officer likely presented false testimony. Such cases—most of which are sealed—were identified through interviews with lawyers, police officers and current or former judges.

The Times’ article highlights the common lies about which police testify, including: saying they saw a gun in a suspect’s hand or waistband when it was actually out of view; saying they witnessed an arrest for which they were not actually present; claiming they watched a drug deal occur, only to later recant or be proven to have lied. In two recent cases, officers appeared to have given false statements about eyewitness testimony. “These cases,” says the Times, “are particularly troubling because erroneous identifications by witnesses have been a leading cause of wrongful convictions.”

“These cases are particularly troubling because erroneous identifications by witnesses have been a leading cause of wrongful convictions.”

Why do police lie? According to the Times, in many circumstances, it’s to avoid restrictions against unconstitutional stop and frisks. In other cases, the motive is to convict someone, regardless of whether or not that person actually committed the crime. Some officers have stated they are pressured by their supervisors to write more tickets, to reach an arrest quota, or to close a case.

The 25 cases identified by the Times are a small portion of those in which officers are believed to have lied. This is because a large majority of cases result in plea deals. With a plea deal, if an officer lies, it is unlikely to be exposed: it is rare for a case to progress to a hearing where a defendant can question an officer’s version of events.

“There’s no fear of being caught,” a Brooklyn officer who has been on the force for almost a decade told the Times. “You’re not going to go to trial and nobody is going to be cross-examined.” The percentage of cases that progress to the cross-examination of an officer is quite small. According to the article, in 2016, for example, there were slightly more than 185 guilty pleas, dismissals, or other non-trial outcomes for each criminal case in New York City that went to trial and resulted in a verdict. There were 1,460 trial verdicts in criminal cases that year, while 270,304 criminal cases were resolved without a trial.

“Police lying raises the likelihood that the innocent end up in jail – and that as juries and judges come to regard the police as less credible, or as cases are dismissed when the lies are discovered, the guilty will go free.”

The persistence of lying by the police has inevitably become a contributing factor to wrongful convictions, in New York City and beyond. The Times writes: “Police lying raises the likelihood that the innocent end up in jail – and that as juries and judges come to regard the police as less credible, or as cases are dismissed when the lies are discovered, the guilty will go free.”

Read the full article here.

 

3 Comments

  1. Sean Coast

    Though I’m not now incarcerated, I bear the stigma of being a convicted felon for a crime I had nothing to do with based on the lies of police and informants. This event occurred in 1978 in Los Angeles, it appears I will live with this nightmare for the rest of my life. I’ve tried fighting it to no avail. I can’t afford attorneys and when I went to law school the police would have their people ambush me, assault me and harass me to the point I barely passed the classes and couldn’t pass the baby bar thereby taking me out of my only chance at justice, to become a lawyer. Someday, perhaps, society will have a way of stopping such behavior, perhaps not.

    • Henrietta Perkins

      Please do not let these pigs discourage you if you do they win. Keep trying you will win you will win for us

  2. John Cottam

    My name is Dr. John Cottam, MD Tampa.. I was lied about by a cop in Widlwood Florida.. His name is Doug Pelton. The state Attorney continue to prosecute me evne after the lies were reveaied in depositions.. Then the State attorney abandoned the case a day before a ore-trial hearing (in which all the dirt would be spilled in public.. showing the malicious prosecution the state attorney was involved in). His boss, who was a captian at the time (Sgt Valentino) , and chief, (Reeser), protected him, as did the Florida Dept of law Enforcement (FDLE).. The State attorneys office did as well.. I took the case to Federal court (5:16-dv-413) Cottam v Pelton, and the judge, after dismissing his bosses who engaged in obstruction of justice, and the state attorney who engaged in extortion, etc.. completely ignored the copious evidence, even eye-witness account, and dismissed the case on summary judgment, completely eviscerating rule 56 and all legal precedent, and not allowing the facts in front of a jury. The Federal courts are in complicity with lying Law Enforcement.. this is no “conspiracy theory”. I have lived it and am living it.. It is now in the 11th distr Atlanta appeals court case 18-10095-JJ

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