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Testilying (a portmanteau of "testify" and "lying") is a United States police slang term for the practice of giving false testimony against a defendant in a criminal trial. It is typically used to "make the case" against someone they believe to be guilty when minor irregularities during the suspect's arrest or search threaten to result in acquittal on a technicality. Defendants who embellish their own testimony, particularly when no evidence contradicts them, can also be said to be testilying.


Published usage

The word and its meaning have been publicized by defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, notably in a 1994 New York Times article, "Accomplices to Perjury," in which he said:

As I read about the disbelief expressed by some prosecutors... I thought of Claude Rains's classic response, in Casablanca on being told there was gambling in Rick's place: "I'm shocked—shocked." For anyone who has practiced criminal law in the state or Federal courts, the disclosures about rampant police perjury cannot possibly come as a surprise. "Testilying"—as the police call it—has long been an open secret among prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges.[1]

There seems to be little doubt that the practice occurs, is not limited to any region of the country, and that "testilying" is a common name for it. A 2003 Boston Globe editorial noted:

In the early 1990s, the Mollen Commission peeled away layers of falsehood in the New York City Police Department, including false statements on warrant applications, creation of confidential informants out of whole cloth, and lies told to establish probable cause for stopping and searching vehicles. So-called "testilying," however, is not limited to any one area or police department. The problem has become so acute that juries nationwide routinely express skepticism about law enforcement testimony, such as drugs found "in plain view".

The LAPD is said to call the practice "joining the liars' club." In a 1996 article in the Los Angeles Times, "Has the Drug War Created an Officer Liars' Club?," Joseph D. McNamara, then chief of police of San Jose, said "Not many people took defense attorney Alan M. Dershowitz seriously when he charged that Los Angeles cops are taught to lie at the birth of their careers at the Police Academy. But as someone who spent 35 years wearing a police uniform, I've come to believe that hundreds of thousands of law-enforcement officers commit felony perjury every year testifying about drug arrests." He noted that "Within the last few years, police departments in Los Angeles, Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco, Denver, New York and in other large cities have suffered scandals involving police personnel lying under oath about drug evidence."


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