What Should We Do With A Witness Who Kills People With Lies?

How much lower can a human being go than giving false testimony under oath so a defendant gets the death penalty?

“After his conviction, Manuel received the death penalty, largely because a state prison expert presented false testimony to persuade the jury that Manuel would pose a danger to society if given life without parole instead,” the ACLU said.

And, of course, it’s even worse when it turns out the defendant is innocent and was wrongly convicted.

Manuel Velez … was convicted in Brownsville … for murdering the year-old son of his then-girlfriend.  But the American Civil Liberties Union … said Velez was 1,000 miles away working construction in Tennessee when the child was injured.

So how did Velez get wrongly convicted?  Pretty simple.  The girlfriend, who probably was the real killer, cooperated with authorities to save her own butt and got a 10-year sentence in exchange for testifying against Velez.  Which says something about how police and prosecutors “solve” crimes in this country, and raises questions about whether we as a society should continue tolerating their practices, but I don’t want to dwell on that issue here.  And Velez also got lousy representation from a …

court-appointed lawyer [who] failed to “discover and present the testimony of the many witnesses who said the girlfriend threw, hit, and dropped the baby and abused her children, while Manuel was never physically rough and always peaceful,” 

… which raises another issue, namely, some states are so cheap about funding the public defenders required by constitutionally-mandated due process that defendants in those states might as well not be represented at all, but that’s another issue I don’t want to get bogged down with here.  And then there’s Texas.  This wrongful conviction, like many others, happened in Texas; and what can you expect from Texas, a state that runs a death factory and doesn’t care very much (if at all) whether it executes innocent people (see, e.g., Todd Willingham)?

The issue I want to zero in on here is the witness who lied so Velez would get the death penalty.  He’s identified as A. P. Merillat, putatively “a prosecution expert on the death penalty.”  Merillat is also a former police officer who’s been in hot water before for lying on the witness stand in order to persuade juries to let the state kill people:

[H]is testimony about the violence that inmates serving life sentences can inflict has helped send at least 15 murderers to death row.  Now the credibility of Mr. Merillat … has been condemned by the state’s highest criminal court, after judges determined that Mr. Merillat gave false testimony. Two death sentences were reversed to life sentences, the most recent in June.

And how is he taking this?

Mr. Merillat said he was close to being devastated by those decisions. “A guilty capital murderer was removed from the punishment a jury, according to proof beyond a reasonable doubt, determined he deserved,” Mr. Merillat said.

Clearly, this is a clueless, judgmental, blindered dolt who harbors a death wish for other people.  If he’s what passes for a police officer now, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that cops have taken to executing people on the street.  Hell, they’re all guilty, so let’s save the taxpayers the expense of a trial.

His testimony was relevant to sentencing because,

For a Texas jury to sentence a murderer to death, it must find that he or she will be a continuing threat to society. For decades, prosecutors relied on psychiatrists to testify that the accused would commit violent crimes again … [but] many of those psychiatric experts … have since been discredited … [so] prosecutors have turned to prison experts for [such] testimony ….

This actually surprises me, because Texas executes so many people I just assumed they automatically kill everyone there.

This article isn’t meant to be a treatise on the death penalty.  I actually support using the death penalty in a limited way for exceptionally heinous crimes (e.g., torture slayings) where the defendant is guilty beyond any doubt, although not the way Texas does it.  Just looking at the raw statistics of how many people Texas executes, I can’t believe Texas has that many more heinous criminals than the rest of the states.  If they do, maybe we should fence off the whole state and declare it a quarantined psycho ward.

No, this article is about what to do with lying witnesses whose lies result in someone else’s death.  I suppose this can get somewhat nuanced.  The prosecutor in this case is still defending Merillat’s testimony against Velez, maybe because his own ass is out on a limb and he’s afraid that if Merillat falls out of the tree they’ll go together, but it’s awfully hard to defend expert testimony that someone should be put down like a dog because he’s a depraved sociopath beyond redemption when it turns out he isn’t even guilty.  So, what do you do with such a witness?  I say hang ‘im.  But let’s play fair, and give him a fair trial first — something his victims didn’t get.

Roger Rabbit

P.S.:  Manual Velez, whose death sentence was overturned in 2012, and has now been exonerated, walked out of jail a free man today after serving 9 years for a crime he didn’t commit, 4 of them on death row.

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