Can police perjury vacate verdict in unrelated case?
Can prior, provable perjury of police officers in a civil suit in which they were defendants/witnesses be used as grounds for an appeal of a verdict in an unrelated criminal case that took place some years later?
These police officers were major witnesses against the criminal
defendant who had unsuccessfully raised issues of police misconduct in his defense. The extensive prior perjury was unknown by both the prosecutor and defense attorney. I doubt that had the jury known of the prior perjury of the NY State Police witnesses that a conviction would have resulted. Certainly the credibility of the police would have been destroyed.
This was a western NY case, People v Beaufort-Cutner which later became a made for TV movie.
1 Answer from Attorneys
Discovering new evidence long after a trial is over generally will not support an appeal. That is especially true where, as here, defense counsel knew of the evidence at the time and just didn't do anything with it. It must be too late by now to appeal the conviction, but even if this evidence had come to light earlier it likely still would not have helped in a direct appeal.
But a new appeal is not the defendant's only option. He may be able to petition for a writ of habeas corpus instead. Proof that his lawyers had solid impeachment evidence that they failed to use against key prosecution witnesses might be enough to get his conviction thrown out, though I can think of many reasons why it might not. Even if the petition succeeds, the state will have the option of re-trying him.
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