Perjury charges for another shipping company executive

Roger W. Shuy

in The Language of Perjury Cases

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199795383
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919314 | DOI:
Perjury charges for another shipping company executive

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In a follow-up case involving the government’s effort to discover what happened to the incinerator ash dumped by the Khian Sea into the ocean, the grand jury testimony of the vice-president of the company that chartered the vessel from its owner was called to testify at a grand jury investigation. He was asked not only whether he had any knowledge of what happened to tons of ash but also whether he knew the means by which it might be learned how, when, and where it was unloaded. He was subsequently indicted and tried for perjury. Schema theory played an important role in the linguistic analysis provided at trial, since the executive’s schema of the speech event differed from that of the prosecutor. Like the shipping agent discussed in chapter 7, the vice-president knew that this speech event required him to be as informative as possible but not to say anything for which he lacked verifiable evidence. The prosecutor failed in his attempts to get this executive to use the speech act of conjecturing or speculating. The semantics of the verb phrases “to know,” and “disposed of,” also played an important role in his testimony. Since Bronston v. Untied States, it has been clear that the burden is on the questioner to clarify ambiguous answers. The prosecutor failed to do this. Although deception is central to most perjury charges, the prosecutor was unable to uncover any potential deception in the defendant’s language, largely because his intelligence analysis was faulty.

Keywords: perjury; schema; speech event; speech acts; deception; intelligence analysis; semantics; ambiguity

Chapter.  3312 words. 

Subjects: Sociolinguistics

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