Napue v. People of the State of Illinois

How the Napue Case applies to David Hinkson

Simply put the Napue Case forbids a conviction to stand if it’s based on perjured testimony which was certainly the case in the David Hinkson trial.

Napue v. People of the State of Illinois,
60 U.S. 264, 79 S.Ct. 1173, 3 L.Ed.2d 1217 (1959).  

‘It is of no consequence that the falsehood bore upon the witness’ credibility rather than directly upon defendant’s guilt. A lie is a lie, no matter what its subject, and, if it is in any way relevant to the case, the district attorney has the responsibility and duty to correct what he knows to be false and elicit the truth.

The principle that a State may not knowingly use false evidence, including false testimony, to obtain a tainted conviction, implicit in any concept of ordered liberty, does not cease to apply merely because the false testimony goes only to the credibility of the witness. The jury’s estimate of the truthfulness and reliability of a given witness may well be determinative of guilt or innocence, and it is upon such subtle factors as the possible interest of the witness in testifying falsely that a defendant’s life or liberty may depend.

First, it is established that a conviction obtained through use of false evidence, known to be such by representatives of the State, must fall under the Fourteenth Amendment, Mooney v. Holohan, 294 U.S. 103, 55 S.Ct. 340, 79 L.Ed. 791; Pyle v. State of Kansas, 317 U.S. 213, 63 S.Ct. 177, 87 L.Ed. 214; Curran v. State of Delaware, 3 Cir., 259 F.2d 707. See State of New York ex rel. Whitman v. Wilson, 318 U.S. 688, 63 S.Ct. 840, 87 L.Ed. 1083, and White v. Ragen, 324 U.S. 760, 65 S.Ct. 978, 89 L.Ed. 1348. Compare Jones v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 6 Cir., 97 F.2d 335, 338, with In re Sawyer’sPetition, 7 Cir., 229 F.2d 805, 809. Cf. Mesarosh v. United States, 352 U.S. 1, 77 S.Ct. 1, 1 L.Ed.2d 1.

The same result obtains when the State al though not soliciting false evidence, allows it to go uncorrected when it appears. Alcorta v. State of Texas, 355 U.S. 28, 78 S.Ct. 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 9; United States exrel. Thompson v. Dye, 3 Cir., 221 F.2d 763; United States ex rel. Almeida v. Baldi, 3 Cir., 195 F.2d 815, 33 A.L.R.2d 1407; United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Ragen, D.C., 86 F.Supp. 382. See generally annotation, 2 L.Ed.2d 1575.

The principle that a State may not knowingly use false evidence, including false testimony, to obtain a tainted conviction, implicit in any concept of ordered liberty, does not cease to apply merely because the false testimony goes only to the credibility of the witness. The jury’s estimate of the truthfulness and reliability of a given witness may well be determinative of guilt or innocence, and it is upon such subtle factors as the possible interest of the witness in testifying falsely that a defendant’s life or liberty may depend. As stated by the New York Court of Appeals in a case very similar to this one, People v. Savvides, 1 N.Y.2d 554, 557, 154 N.Y.S.2d 885, 887, 136 N.E.2d 853, 854—855:

‘It is of no consequence that the falsehood bore upon the witness’ credibility rather than directly upon defendant’s guilt. A lie is a lie, no matter what its subject, and, if it is in any way relevant to the case, the district attorney has the responsibility and duty to correct what he knows to be false and elicit the truth.

* * *

That the district attorney’s silence was not the result of guile or a desire to prejudice matters little, for its impact was the same, preventing, as it did, a trial that could in any real sense be termed fair.’

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