Testimony by several witnesses may be contradictory. Isn’t that perjury?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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What is Perjury?

A person commits the crime of perjury when he deliberately and intentionally makes false statements under oath. He will not be charged with perjury unless the evidence demonstrates that he is intentionally lying and not just contradicting himself. The same is true for multiple witnesses whose testimony contradicts that of other witnesses.

A court case can take place over a long period of time, during which a witness will be called to testify under oath on several occasions. It is highly conceivable that his memory and perception of events will change over time, resulting in discrepancies and contradictions between his various statements. Similarly, multiple witnesses have different viewpoints and perspectives that contradict the statements of the other witnesses. These contradictions do not mean the witnesses are guilty of perjury, they just mean that the witnesses are human.

The discrepancies that exist between witnesses are used by attorneys in court for a variety of legitimate reasons, like testing a witness’ credibility, arguing about the sufficiency of the evidence and ultimately searching for the truth. It is up to the fact finder (either a judge or a jury) to decide which witness to believe, if the witnesses give contradictory testimony. When there are discrepancies between witnesses it is certainly not necessarily a matter of perjury.

The judges and prosecutors responsible for enforcing the law recognize that in court witnesses will contradict each other in the search for truth. To prosecute all these witnesses for perjury is not a good idea because it could have a chilling effect on the justice system’s ability to prosecute criminals. A witness who fears he will be prosecuted for perjury because his testimony differs from someone else’s testimony will not be willing to come to court.

Getting Legal Help

If you have been charged with perjury, or just have general questions about perjury, you should talk to a criminal attorney in your area.

 

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