Amici Curiae Brief in Glossip v. Oklahoma: Support to Correct Witnesses’ False Testimony

This death penalty case raises a vital question regarding a prosecutor’s constitutional obligation to correct the false testimony of a key witness for the State. The decision of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”)—holding that due process was not offended by the prosecution’s failure to correct its key witness’s false testimony on direct examination—creates uncertainty about the extent of prosecutors’ responsibility in such circumstances. The OCCA decision not only erodes prosecutorial obligations but also creates confusion about the scope of this Court’s holding in Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959), that the Constitution requires prosecutors to rectify their witnesses’ false testimony. The OCCA rejected Richard Eugene Glossip’s due process claim notwithstanding the state Attorney General’s confession of error. The state court’s legal conclusions— along with its factual assertion that defense counsel should have known of the relevant testimony’s falsity—were wrong. The exceptions to a prosecutor’s duty of candor created by the OCCA are inconsistent with the truth-seeking function of the trial process and with the constitutional due process principles described in Napue. The decision countenances a constitutional violation that draws into question the integrity of the verdict in this case. Further, it misdirects prosecutors about their responsibilities under the Constitution and the rules of professional conduct that derive therefrom, to the detriment of fair and reliable verdicts in future cases. This Court should reverse the state court’s decision, to clarify that the integrity and fairness of criminal proceedings unequivocally require prosecutors to rectify false testimony that is relevant to any issue the jury will decide.



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