Don’t overlook the importance of witness credibility

by | Nov 4, 2020 | Criminal Defense

You’re considered innocent until proven guilty. That’s a high hurdle to clear for prosecutors, but you don’t want to take any chances when dealing with criminal matters. The truth is that there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself in a criminal case, but a lot of your success will hinge on your ability to competently present your criminal defense. This is especially true when it comes to utilizing critical litigation skills.

Addressing witness credibility

One of those skills is attacking witness credibility. This can be an important part of your case, especially given the fact that prosecutors often base their cases on the testimony of just a handful of witnesses. By attacking credibility, you can lead a jury to give a witness’s testimony less weight, which could be the tipping point in your case. So how do you go about addressing credibility? Here are just a few ways:

  • Point out inconsistent statements: If you conduct a deposition, which is the taking of sworn testimony before trial, then you can use that record to point out any contradictory or misleading testimony given at trial. This is called impeachment by inconsistent statements. Successfully impeaching in this fashion requires that a certain process be followed, though, so you’ll need to know how to handle this matter with care while still making a meaningful impact on the jury.
  • Point out motivations and biases: A lot of witnesses have issues that affect the way they testify. An officer may have a history of discrimination against members of a certain race, and criminals might be offered a plea deal or even immunity to testify against you. Again, you can diminish the power of this testimony by pointing out its flaws for the jury. You’ll need to know everything about the witnesses being used against you, though, which is why adequate preparation is key.
  • Highlight a history of lying: You have to be careful here. You can’t simply start testifying about how other witnesses are liars because they lied about other things in your personal life. Instead, you’ll be better served if you can show that the witness has criminal convictions that possess some element of being untruthful, such as fraud, forgery, and impersonation. Such a showing will likely discredit the witness and render his or her testimony worth very little.

Be prepared with a holistic criminal defense

Attacking witness credibility, while important, is just one piece of your criminal defense strategy. To maximize your chances of success, you need to look at your case from every angle and be aggressive in attacking the prosecution. But you also have to play defense, such as when your or your witnesses’ credibility is attacked. If you want the best criminal defense possible under the circumstances, then you should probably discuss your case with an experienced attorney of your choosing.