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How could lies lead to a wrongful conviction?

On Behalf of | Jan 18, 2023 | Federal Appeals

One person’s word can often be key in securing a criminal prosecution. Yet, what a person is willing to swear is true is not always so. Each year numerous innocent people are given sentences they should never have received after a court believes what someone said.

What motivates someone to lie?

It depends on who they are and their role in the case. Here are two examples:

An eyewitness or police informant

The police and prosecutors look to secure a conviction. Once they have one, they can consider the case closed. Sometimes they are too hasty to believe what they want to believe, especially if they have struggled to find solid evidence against someone they believe committed a crime.

That’s where other unscrupulous characters can slip into the picture, especially someone who either committed the crime themselves, is facing charges for another offense or is already serving time.

Prosecutors and police often tell people they can reduce their sentence in exchange for helping them solve a case. That can range from saying they saw you at the crime scene to claiming they overheard you admitting to it later.

The suspect themselves

The law gives the police a fair amount of leeway regarding what they can do to get someone to confess. Many people who did not commit a crime have eventually cracked under intense pressure and said they did, thus condemning themselves to hefty sentences.

Highlighting that what you or someone else said wasn’t true is not always possible in court. Sometimes a judge and jury won’t believe you, and they convict you of the crime, despite your protests that you are innocent. Looking for ways to appeal may still be an option you can investigate with appropriate legal help.