There are a lot of aspects to a prosecutor’s case that must be executed with precision before a conviction can be obtained. Amongst them is compelling witness testimony. However, there’s much more to a witness’s testimony that what he or she says about the alleged crime. In fact, in many cases a witness’s credibility can become a topic of focus. This is of critical importance because the judge or jury must consider how much weight to give each witness’s testimony. Therefore, the prosecution’s most powerful witness may become their weakest if that witness’s credibility is drawn into question.
In other words, attacking witness credibility might be one of your best criminal defense tactics.
Addressing witness credibility
Attacking witness credibility takes research and knowledge of the rules of evidence. With that in mind, here are a few of the ways that you might be able to address a witness’s credibility:
- Point out prior inconsistent statements: This option is usually accomplished by first conducting a deposition whereby sworn testimony is taken before trial. Then, if the witness’s account changes during trial, that depositional testimony can be utilized to draw out inconsistencies. This helps show the jury that the witness can’t be trusted to keep the truth straight.
- Use prior criminal convictions: This tactic might have to be used minimally, but when it’s appropriate it can be quite powerful. Here, you essentially show the jury that a witness can’t be trusted because their prior criminal history questions their character. This is usually best utilized when the prior criminal conviction involves dishonesty, such as fraud.
- Show bias or motive: This strategy is pretty straightforward. Is an alleged accomplice testifying against you in exchange for a favorable plea deal or immunity? Does the arresting officer have a history of racial discrimination? The answers to these kinds of questions may help draw out weaknesses in a witness’s testimony.
Don’t rely on one defense tactic
Although attacking credibility can be a powerful defense strategy, it shouldn’t be your only one if you can avoid it. This means that you need to analyze the facts of your case with a critical eye. If you think that you could benefit from assistance in developing the holistic criminal defense that you need, then now may be the time to speak with an attorney who has a track record of success.