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Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals - May 16, 2016

U.S. v. Dean - witness statements and testimony

Sometimes defendants think that having a witness change their testimony or "fail to remember" a fact at trial may help them get out of trouble. The problem with that is there are rules that dictate what kind of prior statements can be used against a witness who changes testimony or pretends to not be able to remember.

In this case the defendant's daughter was testifying on his behalf, attempting to slant her testimony at trial to make her father look less guilty of the crime for which he was charged. Unfortunately, the daughter had previously given grand jury testimony that implicated her father in a crime, and when the crime was first reported the daughter's version of the events were recorded on both the 911 call and the responding officer's body camera. Both recordings, which were made rather quickly after the incident and before the father could ask his daughter to lie, were deemed to be reliable statements that could be used in the trial to contradict the daughter's claim that she couldn't remember the facts or the facts weren't as they were alleged to be.

Bottom line, lying on the stand, or asking someone else to lie on the stand, usually will not end well and could lead to additional charges for the person testifying or the person asking the witness to lie.