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Why you should be prepared to attack witness credibility

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Although the prosecution sometimes has physical evidence to present against a defendant in a criminal case, often, much of their arguments are based on witness testimony. This means that your future could rest in the hands of those who take the stand to testify against you.

Of course, the judge or jury in your case, whichever is ultimately going to decide your fate, is tasked with considering this testimony and determining how reliable and powerful it is in light of the circumstances. That’s why if you want to protect yourself as much as possible at the trial, you need to be prepared to address witness credibility. After all, if you don’t attack when you have the opportunity to do so, you could be subject to an otherwise avoidable conviction.

Ways that you may be able to attack witness credibility

If you want to create doubt in the prosecution’s case, you should be sure to address witness credibility. If you’re able to successfully draw the reliability of the prosecution’s witnesses into question, you can significantly diminish their case and increase the chances that you’ll be acquitted.

But how do you influence witness credibility? Here are a few options that may be available to you:

  • Criminal history: If the witness has a criminal history, you may be able to bring their credibility into question, especially if that history involves dishonesty. This is the case when an individual has been previously convicted of fraud, forgery or false reporting.
  • Prior inconsistent statements: Making a witness contradict themselves is one of the most powerful ways to attack witness credibility. This is often teed up through depositions, where you lock in a witness’s testimony. Once you have that depositional testimony, you can refer back to it at trial if the witness is inconsistent in any way. Even seemingly minor inconsistencies can prove to be immense in your case.
  • Bias: In many cases, the prosecution calls to testify one or more witnesses who are completely biased against the defendant. Sometimes, the witness and the defendant have a bad relationship that taints the witness’s perception of the defendant, and, under other circumstances, the witness is biased against the witness’s race, gender, religion or ethnicity. It’s crucial to point these biases out to the judge and jury so that the witness’s testimony can be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Motivation: Some witnesses are motivated to testify against the defendant for one or more reasons. Maybe a criminal conviction will help the other parent of the defendant’s child secure sole physical custody of the kid. Or maybe the individual who is testifying against the defendant was also under criminal investigation but was able to sidestep charges by agreeing to testify against the defendant. In these circumstances, you need to highlight the motivation and paint a picture of how it renders the witness’s testimony suspect.

Take control of your criminal defense

There are a lot of moving pieces to a criminal defense. And overlooking or inadequately addressing even one of them can leave you at risk. That’s why you should be diligent in taking control of your case and diligently creating the strong legal arguments that you need to aggressively push back against the prosecution.

That can be a daunting task, but it’s one that you have to be willing to accomplish if you want to protect your future. The good news is that you can find assistance in building your case by reaching out to a legal team that has proven itself strong in handling these types of cases.