When Cops Lie: A Report From Los Angeles

When Cops Lie: A Report From Los Angeles

When Cops Lie: A Report From Los Angeles

Are police officers ever prosecuted for perjury?


Cops lie. Under oath, on the witness stand. “I saw him reach for a gun.” “I found the drugs in his pocket.” But what happens when juries refuse to believe their testimony? Do cops ever get in trouble for fabricating evidence or lying under oath? Do they ever get charged with perjury?

The Los Angeles Times in a page-one story today named three LA sheriff’s deputies who jurors in a case in Compton, California, said had told “one lie after another” under oath. They said authorities should investigate the three.

The case involved a 19-year-old man arrested at a party at a house in South Los Angeles. Deputies testified at a preliminary hearing that when they arrived at the party, they saw the man run and then toss a loaded revolver on the roof of a garage. They said they ordered him to stop, and that he walked back to them and they then arrested him.

The defendant pleaded innocent and at his trial shouted, “Fingerprint the gun!” The gun was never fingerprinted.

Defense attorneys found that another guest at the party had videotaped the events, and that the video did not show the defendant running or throwing anything on the roof. The video showed him standing still when the deputies arrived and arrested him. The jury concluded the deputies had lied under oath. And the LA Times posted the video on its website.

Are the three deputies who backed up each others’ testimony going to be prosecuted for perjury? Award-winning investigative reporter Jack Leonard of the Times reported that the sheriff’s captain told him that “the deputies made errors that will be addressed with additional training,” but that “their actions were not criminal.” In the meantime, one of the three has been promoted to detective.

The defendant, meanwhile, spent more than a month in jail awaiting trial, at which he was found not guilty.

Credit goes to Jack Leonard for writing the story, and to the LA Times editors for putting it on page one—this is exactly why we need local newspapers.

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