Our judicial system is based on an adversarial model where the ultimate goal is to find the truth of an underlying matter. Direct examination, cross-examination, and the rules of evidence assist the judge and/or jury in determining what happened or what needs to happen.
Most legal disputes in America, both civil and criminal, are born when the State or a Plaintiff bring an important issue before the court.
Cases always include the testimony of witnesses. Taking the stand can be a very nervous experience; particularly when the witness is lying. A good lawyer is almost always able to expose the truth through cross-examination.
One overlooked consequence when a witness takes an oath in court and lies on the stand is the commission of a serious crime. The crime is known as perjury.
Our contemporary perjury statute was originally derived from the 9th Commandment – Thou shall not bear false witness.
In the Old Testament, the book of Exodus provides, “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice.” — Exodus 23:1-2
The brilliant legal scholar, Alan Dershowitz, has written many manuscripts on the issue of perjury and how it relates to our legal system. While I disagree strongly with most of his political beliefs, he is correct about the terrible nature of perjury. In 1999, while being interviewed in Washington, Professor Dershowitz stated, “I think the most serious form of perjury is the biblical prohibition against bearing false witness against an innocent person.” I could not agree more.
In Georgia, the crime of perjury is outlined in O.C.G.A. 16-10-70 which provides:
(a) A person to whom a lawful oath or affirmation has been administered commits the offense of perjury when, in a judicial proceeding, he (or she) knowingly and willfully makes a false statement material to the issue or point in question.
(b) A person convicted of the offense of perjury shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 10 years, or both.
As you can see, the law takes the act of lying rather seriously. There has been a recent trend in west Georgia of prosecuting witnesses when they lie under oath. This is both refreshing and just.
It seems that judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement officers, and society have grown weary of people who seek to circumvent the truth.
Our justice system is still recovering from the four COVID outbreaks. The tolerance for perjured testimony has reached an all time low across the state. Those who lie under oath are being prosecuted and sent to prison.
Bearing false witness in a civil or criminal case is serious business and is finally being properly addressed.
As a result of these prosecutions, less innocent men and women are behind bars based on perjured testimony of witnesses at trial and more guilty defendants are facing justice.
Additionally, parties in civil and family law cases are obtaining justice based on the truth.
If you sense that a witness will lie under oath in a case you are involved in, immediately convey this to your lawyer. Oftentimes, a good lawyer can expose the lie while cross-examining the witness.
Most importantly, if you are called as a witness, simply tell the truth regardless of the consequences. By not doing so, the consequences will always be much worse.