The Court of Appeals in Wilson v. U.S., decided on October 11, 2018, reversed and remanded Wilson’s conviction for Perjury as well as the Obstruction of Justice.

In the District a person if guilty of obstruction of justice if that person:

(1)Knowingly uses intimidation or physical force, threatens or corruption to persuade another person, or by means of a threatening letter or communication endeavors to influence, intimidate, or impede a juror in the discharge of the juror’s official duties; or an officer in any official proceeding, with intent to:

  • Influence, delay, or prevent the truthful testimony of the person in an official proceeding;
  • Cause or induce the person to withhold truthful testimony or a record, document, or other object from an official proceeding;
  • Evade a legal process that summons the person to appear as a witness or produce a document in an official proceeding; or
  • Cause or induce the person to be absent from a legal official proceeding to which the person has been summoned by legal process; or 

(2) Harasses another person with the intent to hinder, delay, prevent, or dissuade the person from:

  • Attending or testifying truthfully in an official proceeding;
  • Reporting to a law enforcement officer the commission of, or any information concerning, a criminal offense;
  • Arresting or seeking the arrest of another person in connection with the commission of a criminal offense; or
  • Causing a criminal prosecution or a parole or probation revocation proceeding to be sought or instituted, or assisting in a prosecution or other official proceeding; or

(3) Injures or threatens to injure any person or his or her property on account of the person or any other person giving to a criminal investigator in the course of any criminal investigation information related to a violation of any criminal statute in effect in the District of Columbia;

(4) Injures or threatens to injure any person or his or her property on account of the person or any other person performing his official duty as a juror, witness, or officer in any court in the District of Columbia; or

(5) Corruptly, or by threats of force, any way obstructs or impedes or endeavors to obstruct or impede the due administration of justice in any official proceeding.

A person commits the offense of perjury if: 

  • Having taken an oath or affirmation before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in a case in which the law authorized such oath or affirmation to be administered, that he or she will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by that person subscribed is true, willfully and contrary to an oath or affirmation states or subscribes any material matter which he or she does not believe to be true and which in fact is not true.

In short, in order to prove a defendant guilty of perjury, the evidence must show that the defendant made a false statement of material fact under oath with knowledge of its falsity.

Perjury conviction is hard to prove as the government must establish through direct witnesses material falsity and knowledge.

Moreover, the uncorroborated oath of one witness is not enough to establish the falsity of the testimony of the accused.

At the trial level the government established the perjury conviction based on direct testimony of one witness and another corroborating witness.  However, the main witness was unsure as to falsity of the Wilson’s testimony and thus the uncertainty in the testimony was sufficient to create a reasonable doubt that Wilson had perjured himself while testifying.

The minimum requirement of the perjury conviction is that the government must produce at least one witness who can positively contradict the statement of the person indicted for perjury.  Here, no such witness testified.

As for the obstruction of justice conviction, as the charge was based on the same set of facts and conduct as the perjury conviction – and as the perjury conviction is vacated so must the obstruction of justice conviction.

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Categories: Criminal Defense.