Regardless of the type of criminal charges you’re facing, the prosecution is going to try to stack up the evidence against you in hopes of obtaining a conviction. While this might include some junk science and documentary evidence, they’re also going to heavily lean on witness testimony. Even though witnesses take an oath to tell the truth when they’re testifying, the truth of the matter is that witnesses oftentimes lie on the stand or state things in a way that is vague or ambiguous. When your freedom and your future is on the line, you can’t afford to let that kind of testimony lead to your conviction.
That’s why you need to conduct research into each of the prosecution’s witnesses. By doing so, you may be able to find ways to attack their credibility which, in turn, may sway a jury to distrust their testimony. This may raise enough reasonable doubt so as to obtain an acquittal.
How do you attack witness credibility?
Attacking witness credibility is a major criminal defense tactic, and there are many ways to go about address witness reliability. Let’s look at a few of them.
- Prior inconsistent statements: Any prior statement that contradicts a witness’s in-court testimony can be powerful when it comes to attacking credibility and reliability, but this strategy is at its strongest when you have depositional testimony that can be used. A deposition is simply the taking of sworn testimony before trial so that you can learn what the witness knows and how he or she will testify. However, because depositional testimony is sworn, any inconsistencies between that testimony and trial testimony can highlight that the witness can’t be trusted, even though he or she has sworn to tell the truth.
- External motivations: In some cases, you can suggest to the judge or jury that the witness is being motivated to testify in a certain way, and therefore his or her testimony shouldn’t be trusted. This is most often seen in situations where an alleged accomplice is given a plea deal or even immunity for testifying against the defendant.
- Bias: Sometimes witnesses simply don’t like the defendant for whatever reason. This bias can be personal, such as a neighbor or family member who has a bad relationship with the defendant, or it can be discriminatory in nature, such as a police officer who has a track record of discipline for using excessive force against people of color. Be sure to point out these issues for the judge and jury so that they know that the witness’s testimony may be tainted.
- Prior criminal history: A witness’s criminal history can also come into play at trial. While not all criminal history is admissible to attack a witness’s credibility, certain convictions are, especially those that relate to truthfulness, such as fraud and forgery. Be sure to research the prosecution’s witnesses to see if they have any criminal history that you can use to your advantage.
Be diligent in the development of your criminal defense
To build the strongest criminal defense possible, you have to attack the prosecution’s case from every angle possible. This certainly means addressing witness credibility, when possible, but it also means engaging in other criminal defense tactics, such as the suppression of evidence, raising defenses like self-defense or insanity, and merely attacking the elements of the alleged crime. These aren’t easy issues to address, though, which is why skilled criminal defense firms like ours stand ready to assist. Hopefully with a strong legal advocate by your side, you can secure the outcome you desire, avoid the harshest of penalties, and quickly reclaim your life.