When witnesses change their minds

| Aug 28, 2018 | Post-conviction Relief |

Although you have a right to a fair trial in the Oregon court system, there are a number of things that could interfere with your rights and lead to an unfair judgment. At the David J. Celuch law firm, we understand that post-conviction relief may be available to a defendant when a witness recants his or her testimony after the conviction.

According to The National Registry of Exonerations, there are two criteria for this type of recantation:

  1. The witness provided a statement that led authorities to believe in your guilt
  2. After you received your conviction, the witness made a new statement claiming the former statement was a lie or mistake

The witness’s original statement could have been made to the authorities during the investigation, or it could have been made under oath on the witness stand. The witness could have been a bystander, the victim or a professional providing expert witness testimony. The NRE studied the recantations in its database and found that they made up nearly one-fourth of the 1,068 cases involving exoneration. 

One of the primary reasons that witnesses make statements that ultimately end up being false is pressure from those who are questioning or interviewing them. This could be evidence that there was police misconduct during your investigation, or that the prosecution did not conduct itself properly during your trial. It could also be due to improper interviewing techniques. 

Most of the recantations that led to exonerations in the NRE study involved murder cases. Others included the following:

  • Manslaughter
  • Attempted murder
  • Assault
  • Sexual assault and child sex abuse
  • Drug possession
  • Robbery and burglary

More information about issues such as witness recantation that may lead to post-conviction relief is available on our webpage.