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He Lies Like an Eyewitness:

For no reason in particular, I was reminded of this Russian saying; to my surprise, it seems to have had little exposure in America, so I thought I'd do my part.

As I understand it, the word "lies" is understood to be something of an overstatement: The suggestion is simply that eyewitnesses are often mistaken about important matters, and perhaps also that they nonetheless overstate their confidence in their accuracy (since after all they saw the event with their own eyes).

Ross Levatter (mail):
Very interesting. Do the Russians also have the phrase, "He lies like a politician"?
4.10.2006 4:35pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Ross, No, but on the subject of lying, we do have the phrase, "Do not hang vermicelli on my ears," which means something like "stop lying to me."
4.10.2006 4:39pm
Defending the Indefensible:
EV, could it be that when someone witnessed politically inconvenient facts, they were not to be believed?
4.10.2006 4:52pm
Some Guy (mail):
Or perhaps because professional and amateur "eyewitnesses" usually were sufficient to send you and your entire family to the gulag for life?
4.10.2006 5:02pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I prefer the line in closing argument: "Who are you going to believe, my client or your lying eyes?"
4.10.2006 5:11pm
Sasha (mail):
I would say "Не вешай мне лапшу на уши" would be more like "Don't hang noodles on my ears."

"Не вешай мне вермишель на уши" ("Don't hang vermicelli on my ears") gives far fewer hits, and even fewer on point.
4.10.2006 5:11pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
And the Napoleanic era French had "lies like a dispatch." Dispatches being the equivalent of press releases, sent back by the Emperor from the front.
4.10.2006 5:12pm
miglia:
It reminds me of an old trial joke. After an auto accident, an "eyewitness" shouted out: "I saw the whole thing - what happened?"
4.10.2006 5:19pm
Cheburashka (mail):
Reminds me of another one: "I'll carry the bags, you carry me."
4.10.2006 5:30pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

Or perhaps because professional and amateur "eyewitnesses" usually were sufficient to send you and your entire family to the gulag for life?

I zhenu yego, I synka yego,
I starukhu mat, chtob molchala, blyad.

Anyone a good translator of poetry, (poetry in this case being a strong word?)
4.10.2006 5:34pm
Cheburashka (mail):
Well, I know what blyad means :P
4.10.2006 5:39pm
Public_Defender (mail):
The Russian saying makes a lot of sense.

Eyewitnesses are one of the weakest kinds of evidence. Of course, a jury is almost always allowed to convict based on one eyewitness alone, put people make so many mistakes that smart cops and prosecutors want more.

When evaluating a claim of actual innocence, stranger eyewitnesses are one kind of evidence I'll take with a big grain of salt. People just don't see what they think they've seen. And high stress (like being a crime victim) increases both certainty and the error rate.

When it comes do reliability, stranger eyewitness testimony is almost at the level of co-d and jail-house informant testimony. When you hear of a DNA exoneration, you can bet that the jury convicted based on one of these three kinds of evidence.

What's really devastating (and accurate) is properly collected and analyzed physical evidence. I'm not just talking about DNA, but also stuff the criminal left at the scene or brought back from the scene.

In any case, your Russian proverb sounds like a great way to introduce the idea of eyewitness reliability problems to a jury.
4.10.2006 6:36pm
Enoch:
Why don't Sicilians like Jehovah's Witnesses?

Sicilians don't like any kind of witnesses...

Ba dum bum.
4.10.2006 9:13pm
Peter Wimsey:
In any case, your Russian proverb sounds like a great way to introduce the idea of eyewitness reliability problems to a jury.


I don't think that using a russian proverb would be a profitable way to introduce the idea of eyewitness reliability in my jurisidiction. Not to mention that the proverb concerns lying eyewitnesses, not mistaken eyewitnesses.
4.10.2006 10:23pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Peter,

You are right, referring to a Russian proverb would work with some juries, not others.

But on your other point, I agree with the professor that the proverb does not literally mean "lie." It includes good faith error.

But some eyewitnesses do lie. My point above was about stranger ID. An eyewitness ID from someone who knows the defendant is only as valuable as the witness's credibility.
4.11.2006 7:34am
Some Guy (mail):
What a poser.
4.11.2006 10:41am