Police perjury is neither new nor rare. The facts are not quite as portrayed on Law & Order.
As a NYS Supreme Court judge I instructed countless jurors that they must not find a witness to be more truthful or believable than others by virtue of being a police officer. And, of course, the reverse.
What about the reverse? Cops who lied? Here are some of my up-close experiences with the latter.
Two cops are driving down a street in a patrol car when, they say, they observe the perp (now the defendant) toss contraband from a window, jump from the window and run. They, according to their sworn testimony, jump a fence, pursue him and arrest him. Seeing him toss the object from the window is the predicate for the chase and arrest.
At a suppression hearing, the defense claims that the window is not visible from the cops’ vantage point driving down the street.
Did the cops just fabricate this story, perhaps because they had no legal basis for an arrest? The adversaries’ positions are mutually exclusive. Since both sides cannot be telling me the truth, I decide that I have to visit the scene. This involves a large entourage of court personnel, defense counsel (who waived her client’s appearance) and the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case.
Guess what? The window could not be seen from where the cops said they saw it. Res Ipsa liquitor. Or, it speaks for itself.
What about the Port Authority arrest where the cop testifying in my courtroom as to his role in the arrest is not the one who a videotape shows to be the actual arresting officer who conducted the acts his brother officer is now saying he executed?
Then there are the cops who say at a hearing to suppress statements that they immediately “gave him his rights.” Those would be the Miranda warnings, the right to remain silent.
Defense counsel: “How many times have you recited those rights?”
Defense: “And what are those rights?”
A blank look, followed by, “Can I get my memo book? I keep them in there.” Sometimes it’s, “I have them in my hat.”
Emily Jane Goodman is a former state Supreme Court justice.