D.C. Mayor Marion Barry castigated prosecution witnesses in his perjury and drug trial as liars yesterday and chastised the news media for not reminding the public that he enjoys a constitutional presumption of innocence in his case.

In his most extensive public remarks about the trial since it began in earnest on Monday, Barry urged reporters not to regard the testimony of the prosecution's witness as "gospel."

"They're not reading from the Torah or the Koran or the Bible," Barry said. "They can lie and they often do. That's what it is."

Barry made his remarks outside the Park Hyatt hotel in Washington's West End, where he attended a breakfast with 200 of his political supporters. The mayor said he felt "comfortable" about commenting on his trial because the jury had been sequestered, with access to no news reports about the case.

Barry's comments followed testimony last week by convicted cocaine dealer Charles Lewis about alleged cocaine use by Barry at the downtown Ramada Inn in December 1988. Subsequent testimony by James McWilliams, a D.C. government official who also was at the hotel, supported part of Lewis's account.

Barry suggested yesterday that those who are following the trial may be forgetting a central tenet of U.S. constitutional law: a defendant's right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.

"The burden is on the government to prove my guilt, and not on me and my lawyers to prove my innocence," the mayor said. "The burden is on the government to prove the truthfulness and the veracity of their witnesses, and not on my lawyers to prove the non-veracity or the untruthfulness of the witnesses."

"And {it's} not just a simple burden either on the government -- it's a mighty burden," Barry added. "Can't be 50-50. It has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. These jurors have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that I'm guilty, not that I'm innocent."

The mayor faulted the news media for not highlighting that legal safeguard.

"The media has not really seized upon that, I don't think, to try to convey to the American public in general and Washington in particular that the burden is not on me. I don't do anything."