United States v. Grayson
438 U.S. 41 (1978)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Grayson, 438 U.S. 41 (1978)

United States v. Grayson

No. 76-1572

Argued February 22, 1978

Decided June 26, 1978

438 U.S. 41

Syllabus

A sentencing judge, in fixing the sentence of a defendant within statutory limits, may consider the defendant's false testimony observed by the judge during the trial. Pp. 438 U. S. 45-55.

(a) A defendant's truthfulness or mendacity while testifying on his own behalf is probative of his attitudes toward society and prospects for rehabilitation, and is thus a relevant factor in the sentencing process. Pp. 438 U. S. 50-51.

(b) Taking into account a defendant's false testimony does not constitute punishment for the crime of perjury for which the defendant has not been indicted, tried, or convicted by due process; rather, it is an attempt rationally to exercise judicial discretion by evaluating the defendant's personality and prospects for rehabilitation. To the extent that a sentencing judge is precluded from relying on relevant information concerning "every aspect of a defendant's life," Williams v. New York,337 U. S. 241, 337 U. S. 250, the effort to appraise character degenerates into a game of chance. Pp. 438 U. S. 53-54.

(c) Judicial consideration of the defendant's conduct during trial does not impermissibly "chill" his constitutional right to testify in his own behalf, for the right guaranteed to a defendant is the right to testify truthfully in accordance with his oath. A sentencing judge, however, is not required automatically to enhance the sentence of a defendant who falsely testifies, but, rather, the judge is authorized, where he determines that the testimony is willfully and materially false, to assess the defendant's rehabilitation prospects in light of that and all the other knowledge gained about the defendant. Pp. 438 U. S. 54-55.

550 F.2d 103, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 438 U. S. 55.

Page 438 U. S. 42

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