Most people believe that the only reason innocent individuals are exonerated is due to new DNA evidence being revealed in their case. This blog series, Reasons for Exoneration, is intended to highlight the work that the Innocence Project accomplishes on cases that do not focus solely on DNA evidence.
This post is intended to focus on the role of perjury or false accusations in an exoneree’s trial. Perjury is known as the offense of willfully telling an untruth in a court after having taken an oath or affirmation. False accusations are when someone knowingly makes a charge of wrongdoing against another person. These perjury claims are usually proven based on a discrepancy between an initial deposition of a witness and their testimony on the stand. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 73 total exonerations in the year 2016 where perjury played a heavy role in the exoneration.
An example of a case occurred in Miami-Dade County. The defendant, Derrick Robinson had fit the description of a murderer, and so was arrested. During trial, there was an eyewitness who declared that Robinson was the killer. Robinson, who had claimed his innocence until trial had pled guilty to second-degree murder in 1989. After his conviction, another eye-witness came forward and identified a different man as the perpetrator. He revealed the actual perpetrator had threatened his family which leads to his false eye-witness report. After this new information was revealed, Robinson was exonerated in 1991.
If the testimony of the witness who had committed perjury or made a false accusation was an extremely large contribution to the initial conviction of our exonerate, and if it is possible for the representative of the Innocence Project to prove that perjury or a false accusation has happened, it is essential to an exoneree’s case.