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United States v. Forrest - 639 F.2d 1224 (5th Cir. 1981)

Rule:

To authorize a conviction for perjury, the falsity of the statement alleged to have been made by the defendant must be established either by the testimony of two independent witnesses, or by one witness and independent corroborating evidence which is inconsistent with the innocence of the accused. Implicit in the evolution and continued vitality of the two-witness requirement has been the fear that innocent witnesses might be unduly harassed or convicted in perjury prosecutions if a less stringent rule were adopted.

Facts:

Defendant, along with her husband, was first convicted in federal district court of knowingly buying, receiving, and possessing a tractor-trailer rig and its contents, a load of eggs. On appeal, defendant's conviction was reversed because the evidence was not sufficient to establish that she knew the goods were stolen. Prior to the reversal ruling, the government instituted a perjury case charging that defendant had perjured herself during her first trial. Defendant was convicted of perjury and filed an appeal of the judgment alleging several grounds of error including questions of double jeopardy. 

Issue:

Did the government fail to meet its burden under the two-witness rule?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

On review, the court reversed defendant's perjury conviction because the government failed to meet its burden under the two-witness rule, which required the falsity of defendant's alleged statement alleged to have been established either by the testimony of two independent witnesses, or by one witness and independent corroborating evidence. The court found that the testimony offered to corroborate the witness' statements was not inconsistent with defendant's denial of telephone conversations about delivering eggs and did not tend to show her perjury independently.

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