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Choosing Witnesses for Your Trial

Whether you’re involved in a civil or criminal matter, the idea of going to trial is understandably daunting. Big cold courtrooms, aggressive attorneys, and, well, a judgmental judge. Trials on TV may be exaggerated, but they are no less nerve-wracking for a person who doesn’t frequent court. Fortunately, you won’t have to face this difficult situation alone with the attorneys at Kevin Lemley Law Partners on your side. Instead, you may have knowledgeable legal representation guide you through this process and offer you the tenacious advocacy you require.

Witnesses Can Make or Break Your Case

Whether a Lay Witness or an Expert Witness Testimony, You Have To Choose Carefully

In this video, we want to take a minute and talk about witnesses. Because our approach is we’re going to be getting the case ready, we’re going to be looking to take a plea offer. If there’s anything we can do to get the client out on probation or minimize the jail time, it’s likely in their best interest to do that. But in the meantime, we have to get the case ready. And we have to prepare as if we’re going to trial. So the first thing that we need to look at is who the witnesses are.

You May Have to Sit This One Out

First, whoever’s been accused of the crime, no offense, but you will not be the best witness. So one, we might not even let you testify. If you’re the one accused of a crime, you have to remember that your word is already under attack. So your word against the victim will not work out very well because you’re stepping in there already behind the eight ball a little bit. What would help us is if other witnesses happen to be present—they could testify for us. And it doesn’t always happen, but sometimes there are other witnesses there. They can testify that you didn’t do what you were accused of doing. Other times, we may have witnesses that can testify and verify that you weren’t there, you weren’t where they accused you of being, and it wasn’t you.

Evaluating Your Witnesses

Early on in the case, we want to sit down and get a handle on who we might have available. And in some cases, there was nobody else around to see the client by themselves or the client and the alleged victim. And so there aren’t really any other fact witnesses to use. Other times we do, but we need to evaluate how good a witness these folks will make. If they have a drug or alcohol problem, they will not be so good, and if they are not very articulate or can’t really explain themselves, again, that’s not going to be so good.

Yes, Cross-Examination is Just as Dramatic as in TV Shows!

Art imitates life.

A lawyer’s chance to examine any witness who appears in court on behalf of the opposition is known as cross-examination. The defense lawyers and the plaintiff or prosecution witnesses are subject to cross-examination by the other party’s legal representatives. Getting favorable responses or information from witnesses is the main goal of cross-examination. Attorneys may also use it to discredit witness evidence by pointing out an inconsistency or weakness in it or persuading witnesses for one side to offer something useful to the other side. The attorney for the other party will do this to our witnesses.

This could get very messy!

Some witnesses stutter, some cry, and some go through visible internal battles while telling the truth of what happened. Witness prep with sample questions is essential!

Giving Evidence in Court

Our Witnesses Go Through Direct Examination.

You don’t have to be afraid of us.

Attorneys don’t cross-examine their own witnesses. In fact, it is against court procedure to ask our own witness leading questions at trial. What we do with our witnesses is called direct examination. Generally, this goes smoothly as every question asked was likely already known to the witness, and the witness is likely cooperating while testifying.

But This Doesn’t Mean We Can Use Just Anyone!

Keep in mind that when we’re using a witness, how they talk and what they can say in court is very different from how we speak and talk out in the real world. And one thing that folks don’t realize is how much we say we know things, or we know for a fact when what we mean by that is we have made that conclusion based upon all these facts that we know. So out here, you can say, “Well, I know Sally did it,” or “I know Sally would never do that.” But you don’t really know that. And you’re not going to be allowed to say that in court. In court, you can only testify to what you actually observe. A character witness has to keep this in mind while giving testimony. A jury won’t always take your word for it just like that.

Risk Management in Choosing Witnesses

That brings me to my next point. A lot of times we get folks that come in saying they have six witnesses. And then we start doing some digging. We find that none of those witnesses saw anything that could help us to have all the second-hand information that’s good for out here in the real world. It’s good for a conversation among family and friends, but it will not help us in court. So we will be limited on what types of witnesses we can use. And then sometimes, just luck of the draw, the witness that we have maybe a drug addict or have a long criminal history. But again, it’s just something that we want to get a handle on early so we can evaluate early. And then, we can understand our client’s risks and help them make the best decision they can make.

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Contact a Cabot Criminal Defense Attorney

Charged with a criminal offense? Get in touch with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Cabot at Kevin Lemley Law Partners as soon as possible. The attorneys here will evaluate your case, determine your legal choices, and assist you in defending your rights and the future.