The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling involving a witness who lied on the stand and the prosecutorial misconduct involved.
The lower court ruled that the federal prosecutors knew that a star witness was committing perjury during the course of a five week long drug conspiracy trial, reports the Chicago Tribune.
The criminal trial was in 2009, against a drug ring known as the Gangster Disciples. Gang members Rondell Freeman, Brian Wilbourn, Daniel Hill and Adam Sanders as well as 12 others were charged on several counts, including conspiracy, in 2007.
The star witness, Seneca Williams, had lied on the stand during the course of the 2009 criminal trial. The district court ruled that the federal prosecution knew that the witness had lied and had knowingly put the witness on the stand, despite their knowledge of the lies.
Williams received a five year sentence in exchange for his testimony. His false testimony was key in proving the elements for the conspiracy charge against four of the defendants. During the trial, one of the defendants' attorneys attempted to cross-examine Williams about the credibility of his story, to which prosecutors objected to, claiming that the defense attorney was not telling the truth.
The truth, however, was that the prosecution was aware that Williams' statement was false and near the end of the trial, the prosecutors stipulated in court that the defense attorney's facts were true.
And to complicate matters further, prosecutors continued to rely on Williams' testimony in their closing arguments, even after they had stipulated to the contrary on his testimony.
The fact that they had relied on that testimony after admitting on the record that it was false showed that they knew it was false, said the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
In their defense, the prosecutors argued that Williams had not lied but rather, had been mistaken and imprecise on the dates of events.
Specifically, the district court singled out U.S. Attorney Rachel Cannon, saying that her actions constituted prosecutorial misconduct.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling will result in a new trial.