One thing to keep in mind is that there is no way to tell when a person is lying without having other knowledge of facts surrounding the person’s statement. One of the great deficiencies in our judicial system is pretending that a judge or jury has that ability without that added material.
We see that every day in divorce proceedings where each side in most cases tell opposite stories of an incident that took place outside the view of others. One person is lying but how do you determine which one. In some cases you can’t; in others you can look at other circumstances to make a reasonable guess. But you can’t know for certain because even someone with a track record of lying could be telling the truth on that one occasion.
An example I often refer to is Boston federal district court judge Mark Wolf who heard Steve Flemmi testify and believed some of his testimony and not other parts. Did you ever pause to think what a mockery of justice that amounts to?
I understand the law regarding witnesses and the duty of a fact finder (judge or jury). One can believe all, a part, or none of a witness’s testimony. But step back and tell me why a fact finder should believe anything a lying witness testifies to? Doesn’t the witness take an oath to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” If the witness starts breaching his oath shouldn’t he be dismissed outright.
I’m not talking about white lies or non material lies like dissembling about one’s age but those that may affect the mind of the fact finder in making the correct decision.
Judge Wolf believed Flemmi when he identified his source in the State Police which was clearly a lie; he disbelieved him when he told him the source of a leak about the Lancaster Street operation. There Flemmi was correct in telling of it.
Had Wolf considered other facts he may have come up with better guesses. Didn’t Wolf understand that Flemmi was not about to disclose his true source who may have been still around and helping him which was the case. Didn’t his antennas go up when he picked a dead guy?
As to the guy identified as the leak, was Wolf happy to not believe that because he was a former colleague of Wolf”s. He may not have been able to conceive him doing it. Most likely though Wolf did not know how the guy was in a jam at the time. He really had no choice but to subvert the other investigation.
Why then are juries with no practice in discerning lies from the truth given that responsibility when experienced judges can’t do it? Is it based on the idea that six or twelve minds are better than one; or is it simply we don’t know what else to do so we engage in a fiction.
I often thought how frightening it must be to have twelve total strangers who really know nothing about you to sit in judgment on you. Not only that you really know nothing about them. Add to that your knowledge that the witness against you is lying that you were present when you weren’t. To compound it the witness is a life long criminal who lies about everything so lying is second nature to him.
If we can’t tell when a witness lies shouldn’t we not let people who have led criminal lives not testify? How can the United States or a state vouch for such a person? Isn’t there some red line that can’t be crossed?
How bad has it become? John Martorano testified against FBI agent John Connolly who he never met giving total hearsay testimony. He’d say “I heard” or “ someone said”. There is no way to cross-examine hearsay statements. This is wrong.