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Can you appeal a criminal conviction based on witness perjury?

Sometimes, witnesses in Pennsylvania may lie on the stand. Judges and juries often base their decisions in criminal trials heavily on the testimony of witnesses. As such, false statements made during your trial may wrongfully incriminate you and result in you being convicted of a crime you did not commit. Since you are entitled to a fair trial, you could choose to appeal your conviction based on the grounds of witness perjury.

As defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, perjury is the intentional assertion of false statements during judicial proceedings by witnesses who are under oath. This includes giving false testimony on the stand, as well as lying on signed affidavits. For example, you are accused of killing a jewelry store manager during a robbery. A witness for the state was your alleged accomplice. On the stand, he testifies that you planned the heist and were the shooter. He also claims that he was not promised any leniency for his testimony. However, the prosecutor actually assured him that she would work to have his sentence reduced if he cooperated. Stating under oath that he was not made any promises could qualify as perjury.

In order to seek an appeal on the basis of witness perjury, you must file an appeal within 14 days, according to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. While it is illegal, presenting evidence of false testimony alone will not guarantee your conviction is overturned. Generally, you may have to prove that the testimony was indeed false and that the prosecutor knew it was false. Additionally, you must also show that the false testimony could likely have affected the judgment.

This post has provided a synopsis of criminal appeals based on witness perjury. You should keep in mind, however, that the circumstances of each case are unique. As such, this post should be taken only as general information, and should not be considered legal advice.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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