A common accusation by defendants and defense attorneys is that that police officers don’t tell the truth on the witness stand, says the Wall Street Journal. Defendants can be the ones lying, but the problem of police perjury is being debated anew. Fueling the discussion are court cases in New York City and Boston that indicated officers may have lied and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could have broader implications for cases in which improperly obtained evidence is in dispute. Questionable police testimony comes up most often in firearm- or drug-possession cases in which officers often testify that a defendant had a bulge in his pocket — which they thought might be a gun — or dropped drugs in plain sight as they approached him, giving the officers the right to seize the contraband.
In Boston, a federal judge last week ruled that a police officer there falsely testified at a pretrial hearing in a gun-possession case about the circumstances of the defendant’s arrest. A federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., last fall ruled that a U.S. marshal and a New York City police officer lied when they testified that a defendant dropped two bags of drugs in front of them and then invited the officers to his apartment, where he revealed a large cache of cocaine. A Supreme Court ruling this month suggests that a controversial, solution may be to weaken a longstanding part of law, known as the exclusionary rule. The 5-4 ruling in Herring v. U.S. that evidence obtained from certain unlawful arrests may nevertheless be used against a criminal defendant could indicate the U.S. is inching closer to a system in which officers might not be tempted to lie to prevent evidence from being thrown out.