How do you tell if a person is lying? If you met a stranger and engaged in a conversation with her could you tell whether she was lying or not? Have you ever believed what you were told and then found out it was a lie? When you hear a politician making assertions do you know if she really believes what she is saying? Do we have any fool proof system that tells us when a person is lying or not?
In putting together my thoughts on the Whitey saga, I have to decide how I am to go about deciding where I believe the truth lies. There are more lies in the saga than pre-ordered iPhone 6s. All criminals lie. It is second nature to them. They don’t even know they are lying. Take John Martorano, he tells us he is a good man and thinks we believe him. The foundation of this saga is built on lies. Most of what we know comes from the mouths of criminals.
Is there any place to turn for the truth? What about the FBI. It plays a big role in this subject. But when we turn to it we see Retired Supervisor John Morris who testifies he lied about this, that and the other thing. Leave him aside, what about the FBI records? It has what it calls 302s which are suppose to be statements of what a person said to an agent. We find they too are full of lies so much so that a judge refused to be interviewed by the FBI unless he could review what the agents would write down what he had said. A prosecutor who worked closely with the FBI said they put in there whatever they want. I’ve seen one filed by an agent who had no idea about the office where I was a prosecutor maligning it.
Even the 209s that are supposed to contain the statements from informants are filled with lies. First, informants being criminals lie. Then they are just passing on scuttlebutt or other things they picked up on the street which may have no relation to the truth. Sadly some will point to a 209 and assume what is in there is true without recognizing the agent has just put down what the informant told him.
I cannot really tell when a person is lying without having more information available and weighing it against what is stated. That is the problem I’ve faced in dealing with the Whitey saga. How do I select among the many lies which ones I believe?
I can’t put the people on a lie detector machine. Even if I could that sometimes can suggest a person is lying but its reliability is questionable. Most criminals tend to be good liars because it is second nature to them, especially those empty souls who murder people. They are dead inside, They don’t react to questions like most of us. I know that Larry Baione passed a lie detector test denying he was involved in a criminal act even when I knew for certain he committed it.
In the criminal justice system we know that many people lie or shade the facts. We admit that. To combat it we give the parties the right to cross-examine the other party. We believe that helps us come closer to the truth. Sometime it helps, other times it doesn’t. I don’t have that tool.
We also have juries. These people listen to a person’s testimony and try to figure out where the truth lies. They get it right at times. We have judges that do the same thing. They don’t have the advantage that a jury has where you have many minds working together to figure things out. Most judges just rely on themselves. A handful will use an aide or two sitting in the court to assist them. They are no more skilled than juries and probably less so.
Judge Mark Wolf is my favorite example of this. He listened to the testimony of Steve Flemmi. He found when Flemmi identified his source for information who worked for the state police he was telling the truth. That turned out to be a clear lie. He found when Flemmi said where the Lancaster Street leak originated it was a lie. That was the truth. He had things absolutely reversed.