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"Perjury in a civil case is rarely prosecuted."

-Monica Lewinsky

"Perjury is a tough rap to prove."

--Richard M. Nixon


Infamous intern Monica Lewinsky, displaying legal scholarship perhaps tinged with wishful thinking, pontificated in the February 2, 1998 issue of Time magazine that perjury is rarely prosecuted.

To the extent anyone going to court to testify as a witness took her seriously, she did them a great disservice. Relying on her comment could cause people to go to jail.

Perjury is a felony. Lying under oath at any "official proceeding," whether a criminal trial, a civil trial, a deposition or an administrative hearing, is an extremely serious crime and will be vigorously prosecuted.

Perjury strikes at the foundation of the entire American legal system. The advocacy system is based upon the notion that justice is best reached when two opposing sides each present the facts of a dispute to an impartial judge and jury, who then decide the matter. If witnesses for one side testify falsely, the entire legal system is undermined.

Perjury prosecutions help keep the "justice" in the justice system. More importantly, knowing that perjury is aggressively prosecuted in a particular jurisdiction keeps witnesses honest.

Eighteen people have been prosecuted for perjury in Cape Girardeau County since 1989. The fact situations include lying at divorce hearings, adult abuse hearings, preliminary hearings, jury trials, grand jury proceedings, bench trials, administrative hearings, small claims court and depositions.

Unlike most criminal cases, which are brought to the prosecutor’s office by law enforcement officers, perjury cases are often referred to the prosecutor by lawyers or judges.

As Richard Nixon (who undoubtedly ruminated much about the topic) noted, perjury can be difficult to prove. In fact, Missouri has a statute specifically requiring the prosecutor to have more evidence than simply another person’s word.

Nevertheless, of the seventeen perjury cases filed by our office thirteen have resulted in convictions, two were dismissed and two are still pending.

The bottom line on perjury is that except for the Lewinsky-Clinton scandal in 1998, the crime of perjury is seldom in the headlines even though it is regularly and vigorously prosecuted.








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