Original Case Details
An individual was charged with criminal sexual conduct in the first degree upon the accusation that he threatened an 11-year-old girl with a belt, forcing sexual penetration on the girl. The girl told her brother about this accusation, and they both went to the police. The defendant voluntarily went to the police department and answered questions from the police for approximately three hours. The entire interrogation was recorded on videotape, but the videotape was never admitted into evidence at trial. During the trial, a detective testified that the defendant said that the truth was “probably somewhere in the middle” of the defendant and alleged victim’s story.
Defense counsel cross-examined the detective on this statement, asserting that this statement was actually made by a detective, and not the defendant himself. Defense counsel requested the court show the video to the jury, but the prosecutor objected, and the judge refused to allow the video into evidence. The defendant was convicted at the conclusion of the trial and sentenced to 25-60 years in prison. On appeal, the Michigan Court of Appeals viewed the video and found that the detective, in fact, made the statement in question, not the defendant.
The Requirement of Prosecutors to Not Use False Evidence
The prosecutor in this case used false evidence against the defendant in various forms. A prosecutor may not knowingly use false evidence, including false testimony to obtain a conviction. A prosecutor has an affirmative duty to correct testimony that is patently false, like in this case. The video clearly showed that the defendant did not make this statement, yet the prosecutor refused to allow the video into evidence, and further tried to substantiate the false testimony as true during testimony and closing arguments. The video showed that the detective was the one who made the statement, asking the defendant if the “truth is somewhere in the middle” and the defendant did not respond and stayed silent, making no moves or actions. To no avail, defense counsel repeatedly attempted to admit the interrogation video into evidence whenever the issue was raised but was never successful in doing so.
The Supreme Court’s Decision
The Supreme Court found that the detective himself made the statement and not the defendant. The Court further found that the prosecutor failed to correct the false testimony as required by law and that the uncorrected false testimony affected the jury’s decision on the case. The Court found that this case was largely a credibility contest. The Court noted that there was no DNA evidence, no physical injury to the victim, and no eyewitness testimony that supported the victim’s assertions. The Court also found that the defense fleshed out several inconsistencies and also shown that the victim had a “proclivity for lying” and pointed out that the victim stole a candy bar the day she said she was assaulted.
These issues highlight the point that the jury in this case was given a partial confession that never actually took place. The Court found that the prosecutor simply went too far in preventing truthful evidence from being presented by the detective and further bolstering the detective’s lie. The prosecutor actively objected each time defense counsel attempted to correct the record by introducing the police interrogation video and prevented the video from ever being admitted or seen by the judge or jury. Ultimately, the Supreme Court vacated the defendant’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.
How Does This Affect Me?
This ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court reinforces the requirement of prosecutors to use truthful evidence in their cases. The main requirement of prosecutors here is that they do not knowingly or intentionally use evidence that is patently untrue and can be proved that it is. This case highlighted an important point about how a prosecutor must only present evidence he or she believes to be truthful and cannot elicit testimony that he or she knows to be false. The defendant in this case was fortunate enough to have a video that substantiates his claims, or else he may have never been believed, and the detective’s false testimony likely would have been viewed as true by the court forever.
If you are accused of a crime, then the police and prosecutors must investigate and prosecute their case according to the rules. If the police or prosecutors attempt to circumvent the rules according to the Constitution and the laws of the state in an attempt to bolster their case against you, then that evidence can be thrown out by a judge. If you have legal questions, then give us a call at Grabel & Associates so we can help!
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At Grabel & Associates, we bring over 100 years of combined experience in defending people in drug cases across the state of Michigan. Call us today for a free consultation at 1-800-342-7896 or contact us online.