Turning a Blind Eye: Perjury in Domestic Violence Cases
Njeri Mathis Rutledge
South Texas College of Law
July 18, 2008
New Mexico Law Review, 2009
Providing false testimony under oath unmistakably constitutes perjury; however, providing false testimony in domestic violence cases is complicated. Very little scholarship has addressed the issue of perjury, much less in the context of domestic violence cases. Although some scholars have acknowledged the epidemic of recanting in domestic violence cases, none have dealt with the fact that many recantations occur under oath. The response to perjury in domestic violence cases is to turn a blind eye and ignore it. Perjured testimony poses a significant threat to the court system. Indeed, one of the goals of a trial is to find the truth. False statements in domestic violence cases harm the criminal justice system and leads to apathetic attitudes towards victims. The Supreme Court's recent decision in Giles v. California and other cases involving the Confrontation Clause may lead to increased opportunities for perjury in domestic violence cases. Since there is no current rule or standard involving perjury in domestic violence cases individual prosecutor offices get to make their own rules, leading to arbitrary decisions.
The purpose of this article is to give scholars and practitioners a starting point on what to do with the perjurer in the domestic violence case. I intend for this article to fill a void in the literature, and challenge the presumption that perjury should be ignored based on one's status as a victim. This article explores the unique relationship between domestic violence victims and the criminal justice system; the motivations behind false statements by victims; and the collateral consequences of false statements in domestic violence cases. Ultimately, the article proposes legislation to address the particular issues which confront domestic violence victims and would protect victims under limited circumstances.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 64
Keywords: domestic violence, perjury, Giles, Crawford, prosecution, recantation, retraction, false statements, perjurious testimony, victim wrongdoing
JEL Classification: K00, K40, K42, K14, K30
Date posted: July 19, 2008 ; Last revised: October 16, 2008
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