Jonathan Montgomery went to prison solely on the word of a teenager who claimed the former Hampton. Va., resident sexually assaulted her when she was 10 years old. Alarms sounded from the courthouse to the governor’s office this month when it was learned she lied, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Of the questions raised by the tragic case, one of the most serious is how Montgomery was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. DNA has proved that people are wrongfully convicted on no more than the testimony of a – most often – mistaken victim. Montgomery’s case is about perjury, not error.
“This is a much harder problem to prevent and to uncover, in part, because human beings are poor lie detectors,” said Steven Drizin of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law. Tasked with finding the truth in Montgomery’s 2008, trial was Randolph West, a retired judge with decades of experience. At the trial, he said, “It’s a day that I wish wasn’t here, to be honest with you [ ] I have been doing this for 35 years, and this is probably the most difficult type of case the court has. It is a word-against-word situation,” West said. He found Montgomery guilty, but accuser Elizabeth Coast now is facing a perjury charge and Montgomery was freed from prison this week on a conditional pardon from Gov. Bob McDonnell.