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Why witness credibility matters in your criminal case

On Behalf of | May 6, 2024 | Criminal Defense

When you’ve been accused of committing a violent crime, including domestic violence, your future is on the line. If you don’t aggressively defend yourself against the allegations levied at you, then you could end up facing serious jail or prison time as well as a criminal record that can haunt you for a long time to come. We don’t say that to scare you, but rather to let you know the importance of building an aggressive and effective criminal defense.

When facing these violent crime charges, the prosecution rests a lot of its case on witness testimony. That might leave you on edge, but there may be ways to approach these witnesses to put you in a stronger position to secure dismissed charges or an acquittal. One of them is attacking witness credibility.

The role of witness credibility in a criminal trial

In a criminal trial, the jury, or the judge in the event of a bench trial, is tasked with hearing witness testimony and giving it the amount of weight deemed proper. Witnesses who are determined to be untrustworthy and unreliable can rip holes in the prosecution’s arguments. This gives you an opportunity.

How can you attack witness credibility in your criminal case?

There are multiple ways to attack a witness’s reliability, their trustworthiness, and their credibility. Here are some ways that may be effective in your case:

  • Demonstrate bias or motivation: Most witnesses try their best to tell the truth as they see it, but their lived experiences and their feelings about you can cloud their perceptions. For example, in a domestic violence case, the alleged victim might give compelling testimony against you, but the persuasiveness of that testimony can be diminished by showing that the alleged victim was angry at you for infidelity, saying they’d do anything they can to get back at you. This type of bias or motivation needs to be highlighted for the jury.
  • Show a criminal history indicative of untruthfulness: Not all of a witness’s criminal history is relevant at trial. But if they have a conviction for an offense that’s related to truthfulness, then it needs to be brought to light. A witness who has been convicted of fraud or perjury isn’t going to be as trustworthy as someone with a clean criminal record.
  • Point out inconsistent statements: You should depose the prosecution’s key witnesses before going to trial. This will pin them down on their statements, which allows you to highlight any inconsistencies when they testify at trial. If you can show that the witness has changed their story, then you can show the jury that the witness’ account of the events at hand can’t be trusted.

You may have other opportunities to attack witness credibility, such as when the witness simply didn’t have the opportunity to see what they claim to have seen, so be thorough when researching and examining these witnesses so that you don’t miss something that could be helpful to your case.

Leave no stone unturned in your criminal defense

There’s a lot of work to be done when you’re building a criminal defense to violent crime allegations. But don’t let the pressure of your case paralyze you. Now, more than at any other point in your life, is the time to be proactive. So, start thinking through the evidence the prosecution will present against you and how you can best counter it.