The leading cause of wrongful conviction is perjury. Half of IPNO’s freed clients were convicted at least in part upon false testimony. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 57% of all exonerations involve perjury or false accusations. In homicide and child sex abuse cases, it is the kind of evidence that most frequently features in wrongful convictions (being used in almost 70% of homicide exonerations and 85% of child sex abuse exonerations).
Perjury and false accusations happen in many ways and for many reasons: personal ill-will, desire to get paid, desire to get a deal from prosecutors or police, an effort to deflect attention from a person’s own crime or involvement, etc. Witnesses who lie can be known or unknown to the accused and they can be lay people or officials e.g., police).
IPNO believes that perjury and misleading information can be prevented and detected more effectively in a better resourced system.
IPNO advocates for the following:
- Training, support and resources for detectives investigating crime so that they can fully investigate the veracity of all witnesses who claim to have knowledge, even after an arrest is made.
- Technological training and resources for police detectives so that they need to rely less frequently on witnesses with other motivations.
- Robust discovery laws and court-supervised enforcement of discovery to ensure that all information about a witnesses’ incentives, motivation or credibility is known to all parties and available to a jury to assess.
- Corroboration rules that ensure nobody is convicted based on the word of a single witness without corroboration.