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Government Witnesses Who Lie to Grand Juries Are Protected from Civil Suits, Supreme Court Says

Apr 2, 2012, 04:09 pm CDT

Comments

Am I missing something here? If, hypothetically, a witness was caught lying, and is prosecuted for perjury, the defendant who was wrongly accused/imprisoned wouldn't have the right to sue? How would barring that defendant the right to sue discourage people from acting as witnesses? If you tell the truth, there should be no reason for you to be afraid of a lawsuit.

By Joe on 2012 04 02, 5:29 pm CDT

Did it ever occur to Justice Alito and his ivory tower colleagues that, through subpoenas, parties can compel witnesses to testify? Immunity only fosters lying. As for perjury, the court should read its own precedents to see the difficulties of prosecution.
As the NY Times wrote, this court has fewer judges with practical experience than in history.

By JR on 2012 04 03, 5:18 pm CDT

You guys have forgotten all those clever English short stories which revolved around the absolute immunity of witnesses, and taking advantage of it to obviate the threat of an action for defamation.. It has been the law just about forever. Hard to see any distinction with grand jury testimony, and obviously no member of the Court did.

My experience with grand jury testimony is scanty, but I don't think a subpoena is going to be sufficient to force a grand jury witness to repeat whatever he did or did not say there. They take an oath of secrecy.

I could see waiving civil immunity if there has been a criminal conviction for perjury, but not otherwise. But that wasn't the case here, was it?

By Walt Fricke on 2012 04 04, 5:33 am CDT

Walt, I think you're forgetting that regardless of the criminal conviction for perjury, they cannot be the target of a civil lawsuit in the event it is discovered a witness has violated their oath to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth".

I agree with you that a civil lawsuit against a witness of any sort during a trial should not be allowed based on heresy such as "they lied", it it would require some sort of proof. However if it is discovered that a witness in any trial has blatantly lied, not only should they be convicted of perjury, but they should also be a viable target for a civil lawsuit.

Imagine the implications if individuals were paid to lie on a grand jury, and information surfaced which exposed their lies, yet they faced no legal repercussion. That would be doing our legal system an injustice in my opinion.

By JW on 2012 04 04, 6:36 pm CDT

QUOTING JW: Imagine the implications if individuals were paid to lie on a grand jury, and information surfaced which exposed their lies, yet they faced no legal repercussion. That would be doing our legal system an injustice in my opinion.

They do. A deputy who lied during GJ is being paid by the government, now not only will not be prosecuted for the lies (whose going to arrest him, another deputy--very unlikely unless its a high profile case), but has absolute immunity for the very real damages that he cause an innocent person.

By anony on 2012 04 05, 5:40 pm CDT

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