If you’re thinking about taking your criminal case to trial, you need to be prepared to aggressively confront the prosecution’s evidence. Although this might include minimizing or even suppressing any physical evidence that the prosecution intends to use against you, your defense strategy should also focus on how to reduce the impact of witness testimony. This means, among other things, being prepared to address witness credibility.
Why witness credibility matters
Depending on the type of trial that you end up having, the judge or jury will be tasked with assessing witness testimony, assigning it the appropriate weight, and deciding whether the prosecution has proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in light of the evidence presented. Therefore, every aspect of a witness’s testimony can have an impact on the weight given to their testimony. So, those witnesses who come across as reliable and credible will be more convincing, whereas those who lack credibility won’t have as big of an impact on your case.
How you can address witness credibility in your criminal case
Therefore, when it comes to addressing the prosecution’s witnesses, you should look for any valid way to attack their credibility. There are several ways to do this, including each of the following:
- Highlighting inconsistent statements: Nothing destroys credibility like showing the judge and jury that the witness has contradicted themselves. Showing inconsistent statements usually starts with deposing the witness so that you can lock in their testimony prior to trial. Then, if the witness changes their story during the actual trial, you can use their depositional testimony to highlight those inconsistencies.
- Showing criminal history: Although you won’t be able to utilize every aspect of a witness’s criminal background to attack their credibility, there are certain crimes that you can and should use to your advantage. For example, any crimes involving dishonesty, such as fraud, embezzlement, and forgery, can be indicative of the witness’s character for truthfulness. So, you should be sure to use these sorts of offenses when determining how to approach a witness.
- Pointing out bias and motivation: Everybody has their own biases, and witnesses aren’t any different. They may be biased against people of a certain race, gender, or religion, or they may have a previous history with you that clouds their ability to see the facts from an objective perspective. In some instances, witnesses who are implicated in the alleged crime are even given plea deals in exchange for their testimony. You need to illustrate all of these issues for the judge and jury so that they can discredit the testimony as they deem appropriate.
These are just some of the ways that you may be able to attack the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. Remember, though, that the prosecution is going to try to do the same thing to your witnesses, meaning that you need to be prepared to protect the credibility of your own witnesses.
Don’t let the prosecution run your case
There are a lot of moving parts to a criminal case. If you neglect to address any one of them, the prosecution may take control of your case and steer it toward conviction. You certainly don’t want that, which is why now may be the best time for you to discuss the circumstances of your case with a criminal defense legal team that you trust to fight to protect your rights, your interests and your future.