Why would a law enforcement officer lie in a courtroom? When you’re charged with a crime, and you’re innocent, the worst nightmare that can happen is having a police officer tell lies that incriminate you and lead to your conviction. It’s only natural that a police officer is going to have more credibility than a defendant accused of a crime.

Officers are supposed to serve and protect. In court, they’re well-groomed, wearing shining shoes and an air of trustworthiness. Jurors naturally trust them. On the other hand, defendants may arrive in court in a jail-issue orange jumpsuit that symbolizes criminality. Defendants are nervous, may belong to a minority group, and may not even speak English well. Often, defendants already have a criminal record. The deck is stacked against them.

Police officers may lie in court for a wide variety of reasons, but primarily, it is for money. The federal government actually encourages officers to lie because police departments are competing for federal grant funds. Departments are literally rewarded for making more stops, searches, arrests, and winning more convictions than other police departments. The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program offers state and local law enforcement agencies millions of dollars.

Under the Byrne Program, agencies are awarded cash based on the number of arrests, without regard to the seriousness of the crime or the strength of the evidence. Officers have not only lied on the stand, but they’ve actually planted evidence in at least two cities, Tulia, Texas, and Oakland, California. In the Bronx, New York, the district attorney actually refused last year to continue prosecuting people accused of trespassing in housing projects because lying by the police, to improve arrest figures, had reached an epidemic proportion.

This is not what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. The Founding Fathers assumed citizens shouldn’t be jailed just because the government says they are guilty of something. They rightly required law enforcement to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant had committed a crime. Why? Benjamin Franklin said that, “It is better one hundred guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer.”

If we allow government to cheat to convict the guilty, we cannot stop it from cheating to convict the innocent. So whether a defense attorney’s client is guilty of the crime or wrongly accused, the defense lawyer’s job doesn’t change: make the prosecution prove its case. The real client of a defense attorney is democracy and the justice system. Feldman conducted his defense, and David Westerfield was convicted.

 

If you are charged with a crime, promptly seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A good criminal defense attorney will work hard – and knows how – to get your charges reduced or dropped. Should you go to trial, an experienced criminal defense attorney will vigorously defend you and your rights. In a courtroom environment where law enforcement officers are encouraged to lie, you simply cannot do without the services of a good criminal defense lawyer.