Trials & Litigation

How can you tell if someone is lying? Lawyer exposes 'hat lap cheater' and can't-remember cops

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A criminal defense lawyer who believes lying is part of cop culture joins a dominatrix, a graffiti artist and an undercover officer in discussing the art of lying with Vice Media.

Though the Vice article is titled “How to Lie,” the interview with Brooklyn lawyer Howard Greenberg is more about how to expose lies on the witness stand.

Greenberg is quick to pounce when a witness uses a big word unlikely to be part of his vocabulary, “Who told you to say it?” Greenberg will ask. “Do you know what it means? You’d never heard that word in your life until the prosecutor shoved it down your throat, did you?”

A police officer who removes his cap and looks down as he testifies is likely to be a “hat lap cheater,” according to Greenberg. “I say to him, ‘I notice you’re looking down while I’m talking with you. What’s in your lap?’ ” Greenberg tells Vice. “And then up comes the hat, and I say, ‘Can I see the inside?’ And there’s a cheat sheet in there—he’s pretending to recount from memory while reading off of a document.”

Greenberg says he also exposes lying by officers “by getting them to fall into a refrain of ‘I don’t remember.’ You went to the scene and found two victims, one was on a bench? ‘Yes.’ One was on the ground? ‘Yes.’ And they were both conscious and talking, weren’t they? ‘Yes.’ I’ll say, ‘Did you ask them who did this?’ And he’ll reply, ‘I don’t remember.’ And he’s the lead investigator. You have to induce them to say things that fly in the face of the laws of common sense, life experience, and probability.”

When a police officer delays an answer, Greenberg sees opportunity. “Are you buying time to make up an answer?” he will ask. Greenberg says there will be an objection, but it doesn’t matter because he has made his point.

Greenberg asserts he’s never met a police officer on the stand who told the truth, at least not the truth about everything. “If I were to sum it in one sentence: Cops lie about everything,” Greenberg asserts. “If they told the truth, we would not be able to defend criminal cases, but they think there’s capital to be gained by lying through their teeth, so that’s a good thing for a criminal defendant because the lies that they tell, once exposed, will poison everything the police say, even the true parts.”

Greenberg appears given to making controversial statements. His summation comments about a prostitute having judges and police officers as clients caused “dozens of sustained objections and eye rolls from the judge,” the New York Post reported in February. And a Brooklyn federal judge gave Greenberg a warning in January 2015 after the lawyer threatened to stop participating in a trial because of an evidence ruling, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported. Above the Law has more on his cases in this February post.

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