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The two-witness rule governs perjury convictions

Sep 24, 2009 The two-witness rule governs perjury convictions

On September 17, the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed a perjury conviction where the two-witness rule was not satisfied. Gaffney v. U.S., ___ A.2d. ___ (D.C., Sept. 17, 2009).

The Court described the two-witness rule as follows:

According to the venerable “two-witness” rule, “the uncorroborated oath of one witness is not enough to establish the falsity of the testimony of the accused set forth in the indictment as perjury.” 7 The two-witness rule thus “imposes an evidentiary minimum” that the government must meet to satisfy its burden of proving falsity.8 We agree with appellant that the testimony of Ms. Curtis and Mr. Smith did not meet the evidentiary minimum with respect to any of the three statements at issue.9

As explained in Hsu, the two-witness rule “is somewhat misnamed today, for while two witnesses will accomplish the task, one witness plus independent corroborative evidence will also suffice.”10 In the latter case, “the independent, corroborative evidence need not be sufficient, by itself, to demonstrate guilt; rather, it need only tend to establish an accused’s guilt and be inconsistent with the innocence of the defendant when joined with the one direct witness’ testimony.”11 What must be corroborated is the part of the primary witness’s testimony that falsifies the defendant’s statement.12 “Corroboration is required for the perjured fact as a whole,” though, “and not for every detail or constituent part of it.”13

Gaffney, ___ A.2d. ___.

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