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Whether the introduction of perjured testimony requires a new trial depends on the materiality of the perjury to the jury's verdict and the extent to which the prosecution was aware of the perjury. With respect to this latter inquiry, there are two discrete standards of review that are utilized. Where the prosecution knew or should have known of the perjury, the conviction must be set aside if there is any reasonable likelihood that the false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury. If it is established that the government knowingly permitted the introduction of false testimony reversal is virtually automatic. Where the government was unaware of a witness' perjury, however, a new trial is warranted only if the testimony was material and the court is left with a firm belief that but for the perjured testimony, the defendant would most likely not have been convicted.
Appellant lobbyists performed lobbying and other services for a corporation. Appellants networked for the corporation to facilitate government contracts and to strengthen the corporation's image among investors. Appellants fraudulently performed and reported the services and the corporation misrepresented the nature of some of appellants' services in corporate records, which resulted in fraudulent government filings. Appellants were charged with racketeering, fraud, and other offenses. The prosecution built its case on the testimony of two primary witnesses, Moreno and Guariglia, who perjured themselves during the course of their testimony at trial. The jury was instructed to evaluate Moreno’s testimony carefully; however, no such instruction was given relative to Guariglia’s testimony. Appellants were convicted. Appellants challenged their convictions.
Would the perjured testimony of the key government witness require a reversal of the appellants’ convictions?
On appeal, the court held that a key government witness committed perjury and that the state, instead of taking steps to minimize the perjury and its effects, improperly attempted to rehabilitate the witness. The court held that though the witness' perjury related to a collateral issue and his character, he was the centerpiece of the case and therefore reversal was warranted. The court stated that reversal was required even if the state had not known of the perjury as it infected the trial proceedings and interfered with the jury's ability to weigh testimony.