Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune ran a troubling story about the common practice of police officers in Cook County lying on the stand during criminal cases. In a lengthy investigate piece, the paper reported more than a dozen cases in which police officers gave highly questionable testimony or just flat out lied in court. Most concerning of all is that the Tribune found that police officers are rarely punished for this conduct.
Testilying is Widespread but Hard to Prove
The paper noted that the problem of police officers lying on the stand is so widespread that some lawyers have taken to calling it “testilying,” a combination of the words testifying and lying. The article found cases both big and small in which police officers have apparently lied on the stand. A police officer is seemingly as likely to lie in a case over $30 in drugs as in a case involving $30,000 worth of drugs.
The most egregious case cited by the Chicago Tribune was a drug case last year during which a special Chicago narcotics unit was on a stakeout, but abandoned its assignment to initiate a traffic stop on a van with a busted taillight. The Cook County judge on the case found the testimony of the officers to be so blatantly untruthful that he dismissed the case and admonished other judges and attorneys in Chicago for failing to take action against police officers in similar cases.
The problem is that without strong evidence to the contrary, prosecutors are unlikely to pursue an investigation into whether police officers are lying on the stand. The only exception in Chicago is usually when video evidence clearly shows that the version of events given by a police officer is untruthful.
Dealing with Lying Police Officers in Cook County
If there is enough independent evidence in the record to indicate a police officer is lying, prosecutors may be lobbied to pursue a perjury charge, however, this is quite rare in Chicago.
It is more likely that the lies of a police officer can be used to have a case dismissed or overturned on appeal. For example, if it becomes clear that a police officer is lying about how he found a gun on a suspect, a judge will likely suppress this evidence at trial. If this is key to the prosecution’s case, it may be enough to get the charges dismissed.
If you are unable to get bad evidence or untruthful testimony thrown out, and are convicted, that’s not the end of the road. You can still file an appeal, and the appellate court may be convinced to vacate your conviction.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with a crime and go to trial, the police officers who arrested you are going to take the stand. Juries put a significant amount of weight in the testimony of police officers, so if it’s obvious that the police are lying about your case, this testimony can lead to wrongful conviction that you may be able to get overturned on appeal. For a consultation about the criminal appeal process, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today.