November 3, 2009

lying to cops a crime? or is cops lying a crime?

lying-copI’m called in to represent a guy about to testify at trial against his fellow gang member. Should he take the 5th is the question whenever you represent a witness. He’d given the cops a statement that implicated the defendant. The defense attorney is anxious that this guy not testify. She says to me that if he gets up on the stand he’ll be liable for making false statements to the police because he was now going to deny saying what the cops said he said. I say, “since when is lying to the cops a crime?” The hearing resumes and while it is going on she thrusts this note into my hand. “all the attorneys in the lounge agree that lying to police during investigation is making a false statement to police and is a crime.” I still think she is full of shit. Cops? We’re talking LAPD not the FBI. The witness gets up on the stand and tries to take the 5th. The Judge tells the witness, my guy – “fuck the 5th amendment – you’re testifying or I’m throwing you in jail.” (basically) So the witness testifies how he never said what the cops said he said. In fact he never said anything to the cops. Defendant is found “not guilty”. The same day as this happens I’m in Division 30 and see the three cops who’d been charged with perjury for phonying up a police report over a rock cocaine bust (unfortunately for them the whole bust was caught on surveillance tape.) Three young dudes with shaved heads and suits sitting extremely erect in the first row of the audience surrounded by a bunch of lawyers and some camera crews from the local stations. Is there meaning in this?

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