A priest's aborted perjury charge

Roger W. Shuy

in The Language of Perjury Cases

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199795383
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919314 | DOI:
A priest's aborted perjury charge

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In an ongoing investigation of a suspected mafia-connected figure, the prosecutor asked a priest to testify at the grand jury hearing. Since the priest was a close personal relationship with the defendant but had only a dim memory of the defendant’s now deceased mafia-member friend, he testified accordingly. The prosecutor, however, had a 25 year-old photo of the priest with the mafia figure and a letter that the priest had sent to him. The prosecutor indicted the priest perjury for being deceptive about his close personal relationship with the dead mafia figure. The lexical meaning of “a close personal relationship” was a major issue in the case, although the prosecutor did not define this phrase. The priest, however, implicitly defined it when the topic was about his close personal relationship with the defendant. This definition contrasted sharply with the way he reported his dim memory of the mafia figure. This chapter shows the analysis of the priest’s agenda during the hearing. The district attorney was uncertain about the indictment and called for linguistic analysis that supported his concerns about the prosecution. In this case, the district attorney accepted the linguist’s intelligence analysis and the perjury charges against the priest were dropped.

Keywords: perjury; lexicon; topic analysis; agenda; memory; deception

Chapter.  2957 words. 

Subjects: Sociolinguistics

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