Witness testimony is an important factor in every criminal case. If the prosecution’s witnesses are likely to provide powerful testimony, then a defendant may be more likely to accept a plea deal. If the defendant doesn’t, then the prosecution might like its chances of obtaining a conviction at trial. But even witnesses with the most compelling testimony might not be trustworthy. That’s why it’s critical that you analyze witness credibility and prepare to aggressively attack it when needed.
Ways to attack witness credibility
The jury applies whatever weight it thinks is appropriate to witness testimony. This means that you can help a jury discount a witness’s testimony by pointing out certain concerns. Under the rules of evidence, here are a few ways that you might be able to do that:
- Point out statements that don’t match up: Witnesses change their stories all the time. But a jury isn’t going to know that unless you point it out for them. So, you need to be aware what witnesses have said in the past and depose them as necessary. A deposition is nothing more than taking sworn testimony outside of court and before trial. This testimony can then be used to point out inconsistent statements that are made at trial.
- Show motivation: In a lot of cases, including those involving drug charges, alleged co-conspirators are given favorable plea deals in exchange for testimony. You need to make a jury aware of these arrangements with prosecutors.
- Portray bias: Police officers, former spouses, and friends who you’ve had a disagreement with can be biased against you in one way or another. Show the jury how this bias could taint the witness’s testimony.
- Lay out criminal history: A witness’s testimony can be shattered if you can show that they have a character for untruthfulness. A criminal history of being dishonest, such as engagement in fraud or forgery, can be the quickest way to show that.
Recognize the importance of a holistic defense
Attacking witness credibility, while important, should only be one aspect of your criminal defense. You’ll also want to consider matters like evidence suppression, alibi, self-defense, relevant case law, and even whether the prosecution is able to prove each element of the charged statute. It can take a lot of work, but you may be able to build the compelling criminal defense that you need to reach the outcome you desire. To start that process, you might want to sit down and discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney who knows the law and how to stand up to overzealous prosecutors.