So far this year, prosecutors in Washington D.C.’s Superior Court have charged six people with perjury — almost as many as were charged in the previous three years combined, reports the Washington Post. Many prosecutors say lying witnesses have hampered or crippled their cases; defense attorneys are fearful that perjury charges will be abused by prosecutors. Prosecutors say perjury is pervasive in the capital’s criminal justice system because witnesses have come to think that they can lie without fear of punishment.
Five of the six perjury cases stem from testimony about shootings, most of them fatal. In the most violent neighborhoods, residents are reluctant to come forward with information about serious crimes. Some witnesses fear retribution or do not trust police, or both. Others simply are defiant. Defense attorneys are dubious about the drive against perjury. “Rather than changing a culture, I suspect [prosecutors] are going to drive people away who would otherwise speak to them, because they’re afraid,” said defender Ferris Bond.