Telling When A Person Lies Is An Exercise in Folly

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.

19 replies on “Telling When A Person Lies Is An Exercise in Folly”

    1. Yes, a belated Happy Veterans Day and Happy Marine Corps birthday.
      Matt: Here’s the video of Colonel Thomas Foley speaking at the Somerville Public Library, September 2012.

      1. William:

        Thanks for sending me the videos of Foley’s talk in Somerville. You wrote previously that “Foley at a speech in Somerville in 2013 said that when Wyshak deputized the 5 State Cops they were told there were two villains, two enemies to pursue: Whitey in Southie; and Whitey’s friends in the State House.”

        I watched the video. I may have missed it so could you tell me where he said that. The talk on the video gives the time of his discussion. I’d appreciate being directed to the time on the video where he said it.

        1. Matt, I draw that as a logical conclusion. Wyshak did say, “Connolly got too close to the Bulgers (plural)” Meaning both Whitey and Billy were somehow bad. Wyshak also gave lenient deals to serial killers and Connolly’s boss Morris to go after Connolly, the lowest man on the totem pole. I then conclude Wyshak was really after someone hirer up. I combine that with Foley’s statement that there were two enemies: Whitey and the State House. You did hear him say that and give the phony story about Billy helping Whitey didn’t you. I conclude Wyshak got the false information from Wyshak, his boss. Wyshak dragged Foley and four other State Cops to Miami. They were under his wing, doing his bidding.
          Where else would Foley have gotten the info that the State House was the enemy, if not from Wyshak?

          1. Matt, remember, too, that Alan Dershowitz had repeatedly urged “squeeze Connolly to get Bill Bulger” and once wrote that in a national news magazine and in a Globe Editorial, as I recall, “Connolly’s just a cop, squeeze Connolly to get Bill Bulger.”
            So, this was their marching orders and I believe Wyhak communicated that to Foley and Foley was following through on that, investigating the State House.

            1. William:

              I went up to John Connolly during his trial and told him the trial was not about him it was about Bill Bulger. It was obvious to me back then that he was the goal. John seemed to recognize this. He said to me: “What could I give on him. He’s a man of the utmost integrity.” I of course agreed.

          2. William:

            The Wyshak endeavor was a “get Billy’ operation. That does not mean Foley got his idea from Wyshak. He could very well have come up with it on his own. Why I suggest that is that it would be something that someone who knew very little about the past could come up with. He was a little brainwashed by the FBI. He wrote in his book that the Apalachin take down of the Mafia was an FBI operation which was totally wrong.

        2. Matt, this Foley talk has been cut. The video at about 1:22:28 shows a deep cut. This is where Foley likely after talking about storing guns in the overhead of an airplane and mentioning several times about “government corruption” digressed into his anecdote about Billy helping Whitey and how when he was hired as a FED he was sicced on both Whitey and the State House.

          Remember, too, one of your earlier posts (among many criticizing Foley); You wrote: “I wrote how former State Police Colonel Thomas Foley suggested that in 1990 he did something extraordinarily brave by going after Whitey. I noted how he wrote “Everybody knew; don’t cross Billy Bulger.” The clear inference being that to go after Whitey you’d be crossing Billy and you’d suffer for it. Secondarily, that it was only someone quite courageous like Foley that would dare do it.”

          This too corroborates my recollection that Foley thought his enemies were Whitey and Billy, as did Wyshak, as did Dershowitz.

          1. William:

            That’s true Foley was criticized by me before as I just did earlier before reading this. My real gripe with him is the Naimovich case where he and the FBI falsely accused and eventually killed a goo State Trooper.

  1. As you know, there’s a charge on credibility instructing jurors to consider bias, prior inconsistencies, prior dishonesty and prior convictions etc. I used to add that it’s not rocket science it’s something jurors do every day listening to a salesman or politician. Does the story make sense? Does it fit with your understanding of human nature and how the world works, how people act and react in a given situation.

    And doesn’t testimony from a co-conspirator have to be corroborated? It’s all very imperfect but I can’t think of a better way.

    1. “And doesn’t testimony from a co-conspirator have to be corroborated? It’s all very imperfect but I can’t think of a better way.”

      I can. Torture.

      Now how do I make that little smiley face? 🙁 Good enough.

  2. Hello Matt , Everybody responding to your thoughtful Blogs seem to be citing many “Quid Pro Quo’s” in their dealings with our Government. You say this and I’ll give you that! Then I went to Sullivan’s for a hot dog with mustard and relish, the server wouldn’t give it to me unless I paid him $3.00 . As I went to my car I thought” I just committed a Quid Pro Quo”. I was so thankful as I finished my hot dog that I wasn’t the President of the United Stayes of America! Just st think I could have been Impeached. How lucky am I. Slainte

  3. Great explanation of “the truth”!! and sad that so many people’s lives are destroyed by whatever rendition of the truth that judges, jurors, and witnesses proclaim. A very good friend of mine grew up with John Connolly and from the beginning he said that John told the truth and the feds and everyone else knew it was the truth and John had to take the hit!! I feel so bad for John’s wife and children

  4. I was reading yesterday that a guy who murdered a young girl in 1965 was able to walk out of an Ohio state prison in 1973 because the guards let him out for an unsupervised Christmas shopping trip! The guy has never been seen since. Now, 46 years later, the FBI is offering a $25,000 reward for the guy. I took this to mean the Bureau has reason to believe the guy is still alive. Anyway, this is a long way of saying I’d still love to know whether Flemmi is actually in prison, or walking the streets of Casper, Wyoming, or some other landing place deemed safe by the feds.

  5. Matt, excellent article. It reminds of this , I was sitting in on the recent Saleme trial in federal court and a star witness for the prosecution ( WYSHAK ) was on the stand. In the questioning by the defense attorney he asked the witness isn’t it true that in a previous grand jury hearing that you were found guilty of lying to the grand jury. Answer ” yes I was and actually everything I said to the grand jury was a lie. WYSHAK squirms in his seat. Defense, were you given a plea deal on that following trial? Answer yes. Defense, have you been offered a plea deal for being here today? ( Objection,Side Bar ) Judge,
    Please answer question, Yes I was. Def.atty. ” What were you promised ” Witness , ” Well it all depends on how good I do.” Objection!!!! Def ,No more questions your honor. Of course none of this mattered Saleme was going no place, except procedure and lies continue. This is the main reason John Connollys Florida trial should never have came about. All it was ,was another federal trial held in a state court led completely by a federal prosecutor. John was never going to win that trial the deck was stacked and restacked by a federal game plan that has been well recohersed. The whole state of Florida was under the influence of the federal justice and the poisoned air.

      1. William, please excuse the spelling and grammar mistakes in my article. My iPad has a mind of its own. It could not be me because I went “two” SBH FOR SIX YEARS .

  6. Matt: Your observations are correct. And the witness becomes less believable when the Federal Prosecutor has coerced or coaxed the testimony out of the witness with the offer of obscenely lenient deals. The Prosecutor says, “Testify (or Tell me what I want to hear) and you’ll go free, or you’ll get a cushy cell, or you’ll be spared the death penalty, or get witness protection, or we won’t prosecute your brother Jim Martorano.”

    What crook could resist? The crook knows if he lies the Prosecutor is not going to prosecute him for perjury, so long as he sings the song the Prosecutor wants to hear. The Prosecutor works with the Crook after the Deal is Sealed, and massages his testimony, so it fits. So long as the Crook sings the song the Prosecutor wants to hear, he can say whatever he wants on the witness stand, he can implicate any innocent person, and absolve all his guilty colleagues.

    The crook knows if he does not tell the Federal Prosecutor what the Federal Prosecutor wants to hear, then there is no deal. The Crook senses what the FEDs want; the Crook knows how the FEDs are after.

    Do you know of a case where Federal Prosecutors like Wyshak offfered a deal to a gangster witness, the gangster accepted the deal, and then that gangster contradicted Wyshak’s theory of a case? Why is it that when the deal is offered, the testimony is always exactly what the Federal Prosecutors wanted to hear? It seems the FEDs are not searching for the Truth, but for the versions of events that best fit their preconceived notions.

    As an example: For about 7 or 8 years, Flemmi said (and testified twice under oath) that John Connolly was an honest cop who never did or said anything intending anyone be harmed. In fact the testimony of all was that Flemmi and all the Top Echelon Informants were told repeatedly “no violence, no murders”. That was FBI policy in handling TEIs. Then around 2003, the Prosecutor Wyshak somehow got Flemmi to compose a different tune, a new tune Wyshak would take Flemmi down to Miami to sing. Flemmi was spared extradition for execution and apparently given a cushy cell in a cushy prison. We assume he was offered a deal. But what would have happened if after Flemmi was offered the deal he stuck to his original story that John Connolly was an honest agent who never did or said anything that anyone be harmed? Isn’t it implicit in these Federal deals that you sing the song the FEDs want to hear?

    If so, how can you believe any Federal witness who has been “given a deal”, especially an obscenely lenient deal (12 years for 20 murders, out in a few years with time served, $25,000 in cash, like John Martorano got.) Aren’t these “deals” basically BRIBES?

    Mr. Martorano, were you paid for your testimony? Were you bribed for your testimony? “Yes, the FEDs gave me $25,000 in cash upon release, and they gave me only 12 years in prison for 20 murders, and with time served I was out of jail in a few years, and the FEDs said I didn’t have to testify against my brother or any other gangsters or any of my Mafia buddies or other murderous associates, and the FEDs said they’d believe whatever I told them so long as it implicated the guys the FEDs were after.”

    And then the FEDs work with the Crooks who got the Deals and massage their testimony until its ready for trial, for the Show Trial.

    How do you believe a witness who has been bribed, given a deal, especially a career criminal who’s been given an obscenely lenient deal, or an admittedly corrupt FBI agent like Morris (who admitted to attempted murder) who was offered witness protection?

    And they wonder why people have lost respect for the Federal Criminal “Justice” System.

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