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Here’s why you need to know about witness credibility

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2022 | Criminal Justice |

Much of the prosecution’s case against you is going to rely on witness testimony. Sure, the state’s attorneys are probably going to present physical evidence against you, but a jury is more likely to be swayed by the story told by the state’s witnesses. Although you may have your own witnesses to support your side of the story, oftentimes this leaves the jury with conflicting information. In essence, it then becomes a he-said, she-said situation.

What does this mean for you? It means that you need to pay close attention to witness credibility.

Why witness credibility matters

A jury, or a judge in the case of a bench trial, is tasked with assigning the appropriate amount of weight to each witness’s testimony. Therefore, if one witness comes across as credible, then his or her testimony may be given more credence than a witness who is deemed less credible. While this can certainly have a profound impact on the outcome of your case at the trial level, it can also have significant ramifications for your case on appeal, as appellate courts very rarely question the trial court or the jury’s determination of witness credibility. Thus, a witness’s credibility may mean the difference between acquittal and a guilty finding.

How to address witness credibility in your case

So, as you proceed with your case, it’s important that you know how to attack the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. If you fail to adequately do so, then you may be leaving yourself susceptible to misleading or false testimony. Here are some of the ways that you can go about attacking the credibility of the state’s witnesses:

  • Prior inconsistent statements: If you can show that a witness has been inconsistent, then you can significantly damage his or her reliability. This is often done by conducting depositions prior to trial, where you pin down the witness’s testimony and then use it against him or her if the testimony changes at trial.
  • Bias: Many witnesses, whether consciously or unconsciously, are biased. It’s on you to point these biases out to the jury. For example, in a battery case, you may want to show that the witness has a grudge against you because you were in a broken relationship with his sister, which caused the witness a great amount of anger and frustration. You may also be able to argue racial bias against a witness, including police officers.
  • Motivation: If the state has charged multiple individuals in conjunction with one alleged criminal act, then they may try to get those individuals to testify against each other. They often do this by cutting plea deals and offering other incentives in exchange for the testimony. The jury needs to know that these witness’s testimony has essentially been bought.
  • Criminal history: In some instance, you can use a witness’s prior criminal history to demonstrate that he or she lacks a truthful character. You may not be able to use every criminal conviction on the witness’s record, but those pertaining to crimes like fraud and forgery may be especially relevant.

Taking a holistic approach to your case

Attacking witness credibility can be extremely important to your case, but it’s just one aspect of your criminal defense. If you want to maximize your chances of beating the prosecution and obtaining the outcome that you desire, then you have to take a comprehensive approach to your case. If you’d like to learn more about what all that entails and how a criminal defense attorney may be able to help you, then now may be the time to be proactive in seeking out the guidance and support that you need.


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