Prosecutor says he lied about Polanski's trial
Film director's appeal over conviction may be put in jeopardy by revelation
Friday 02 October 2009
If Roman Polanski has been sitting in a Swiss prison cell consoling himself with the thought that extradition to the US might lead to his child sex case being swiftly thrown out, he may be forced to think again.
The film director's intended appeal against his conviction has been dealt a serious blow, after one of the lawyers who had previously admitted being involved in misconduct during the 1977 trial suddenly decided to change his story.
David Wells, the prosecutor who last year told an HBO documentary that he colluded with Mr Polanski's judge to increase his jail sentence, has now called that claim a complete fabrication. "I'm a guy who cuts to the chase," he said yesterday. "I lied."
He'd been persuaded to embellish his story after the makers of the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired – which was co-produced by the BBC and won an Emmy for director Marina Zenovich – said it would only be shown in France. "I know I shouldn't have done it, but I did," admitted Mr Wells. "The director told me it would never air in the States. I thought it made a better story if I said I'd told the judge what to do," he told legal journalist Marcia Clark.
The revelation may jeopardise Mr Polanski's planned defence. When the director appealed against his conviction earlier this year, Mr Wells's comments helped convince a Los Angeles judge that there was evidence of "substantial misconduct" in his trial.
During the 1977 case, Mr Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with an underage girl, following a plea bargain intended to prevent his victim, a 13-year-old budding model called Samantha Geimer, from having to give evidence.
Mr Polanski was sentenced to 90 days of psychiatric evaluation prior to sentencing. However, he served just 42, before fleeing to France, after hearing that his judge, the late Laurence Rittenband, was planning to renege on the plea bargain and send him back to prison.
Last year's HBO documentary alleged that Judge Rittenband, who died in 1993, was motivated by anti-Semitism in his treatment of Mr Polanski, revealing that he was a member of a county club which barred Jews. The film also saw Mr Polanski's defence lawyer, Douglas Dalton, and one of his prosecutors, Roger Gunson, allege misconduct by the judge. Their criticisms of the trial still stand. However without the support of Mr Wells, Mr Polanski's attempt to secure a "mistrial" verdict will be substantially trickier.
Should the US succeed in securing his extradition, the Oscar-winning director does have another legal option: he could withdraw his guilty plea and go for a jury trial on all of the crimes he was originally charged with, hoping that the passage of time will make it harder to prove his guilt.
That would represent a huge gamble. If convicted, Mr Polanski, 76, could spend the rest of his life in prison. Even if acquitted, he's likely to remain in custody throughout the lengthy trial: given his previous form, it would take a bold judge to grant him bail.
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 3 Ed Sheeran dedicates song to David Cameron
- 4 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
- 5 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Car tax disc changes: Five facts you never knew about your (almost obsolete) tax disc
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
Amal Alamuddin: Human rights lawyer's legal chambers forced to upgrade website following George Clooney wedding
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
- < Previous
- Next >
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...
£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...
Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...