The statements made by three witnesses pretrial that were inconsistent with their in-court testimony does not render that testimony inherently false
State v. Prater, 2017 UT 13.
The Utah Supreme Court found that inconsistent statements made before trial that conflict with later in-court testimony does not make the testimony inherently false. The testimony at issue was provided by three different witnesses to a murder. Although each witness provided false information or denied knowledge of the incident to the police in the initial police reports regarding the murder, their accurate testimony was still submitted to the jury by the district court judge. The defendant argued on appeal claiming that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction because the testimony was “inherently improbable.” The Supreme Court rejected this argument, finding that despite the inconsistencies in statement and testimony, the jury is able to weigh and assess the credibility of the evidence.
The court reaffirmed the principles developed in State v. Workman, 852 P.2d 981 (Utah 1993), holding that the “jury serves as the exclusive judge of both the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given particular evidence.” The definition of inherently improbable testimony was also expanded under State v. Robbins to “include circumstances where a witness’s testimony is incredibly dubious and, as such, apparently false.” The Court in that decision held that “where (1) there are material inconsistencies in the testimony and (2) there is no other circumstantial or direct evidence of the defendant’s guilt” may the district court “reevaluate the jury’s credibility determinations.” In such instances, a district court can find the testimony false. The three witnesses and their testimony, while inconsistent, had other circumstantial and direct evidence to bolster their veracity and it was not an error of the court to submit their testimony to the jury.