Although there may be physical evidence linking you to the crime with which you’ve been charged, the prosecution is probably going to hang much of its case on witness testimony. To protect yourself as much as possible in your case, then, you’ll have to effectively address these witness’s accounts. But how can you minimize the impact of their testimony?
Unless you point out flaws in witness testimony, the jury is likely going to take a witness at their word. Therefore, the burden is on you to show why a witness’s testimony shouldn’t be trusted. How do you go about doing that?
There are several ways to address witness credibility. Here are a few of them:
- Point out prior inconsistent statements: Deposing witnesses is a great way to pin them down on their account of events. This not only allows you to more adequately prepare your defense strategy before heading into trial, but it also gives you ammunition to point out any inconsistencies between a witness’s depositional testimony and their in-court testimony. But inconsistent statements don’t have to be contained to deposition. Therefore, prior to heading to trial, thoroughly research the prosecution’s witnesses and what they’ve said so that you can point out any inconsistencies in their statements. Doing so will highlight for the jury that the witness can’t be trusted.
- Demonstrate bias: Bad blood between you and a witness can cause a witness to take facts out of context, jump to conclusions, or flat out lie about what they’ve observed. But the jury isn’t going to know about your relationship with the witness unless you show it to them. It’s a good idea, then, to tell a story about what the witness is trying to do, that way it’s more engaging and persuasive to the jury. You might be able to use this strategy on police officers and investigators who have it in for you, too.
- Highlight criminal history: Not all criminal history is usable when addressing witness credibility. However, most convictions related to truthfulness, or lack thereof, are usually fair game. This includes crimes such as fraud and embezzlement. So, investigate the criminal histories of the prosecution’s witnesses to see if they have anything that you can use to diminish the power of their testimony.
- Use other evidence to contradict: The prosecution’s witnesses are going to confidently testify that their story is the truth. This can be persuasive to the jury. But if there’s other evidence that contradicts the witness’s testimony, then you need to make that a focal point during that witness’s testimony. That way the jury can see the contrast. This will likely mitigate the damage caused by that witness’s testimony.
- Show motivation: In some instances, witnesses are motivated to testify against a defendant. For example, if you were just one of many individuals charged for a particular criminal event or activity, then one of those other individuals might flip on you and testify against you in exchange for immunity or reduced penalties. The jury needs to know about these motivating factors so that they can assign the appropriate weight to the witness’s testimony.
Take control of your criminal defense
When you’re in the heat of your criminal case, it’s easy to feel like the prosecution is running the show and that your future is in their hands. But your case doesn’t have to play out that way. You can take control of your defense and your case by preparing your legal arguments as thoroughly as possible. This could open the door to aggressive criminal defense strategies that put you on a path to beating the prosecution and reclaiming your life.