When a criminal case goes to trial, the jury must evaluate eyewitnesses. Jury members may accept what a witness has to say, but they are free to reject that testimony, too. In Louisiana criminal law, it’s important to cross-examine eyewitnesses because their testimony may be unreliable. Using cross examination effectively could help defendants fight the charges against them.
Using the right to cross examination effectively
In criminal law, a defendant has the right to cross-examine a witness. The defense may ask the person questions to clarify their testimony. While it may seem like an eyewitness provides credible evidence, there are several reasons that their testimony may not be reliable, including:
- Bias of the witness
- Intimidation from another party about the person’s testimony
- A poor vantage point to observe the events
- Failing memory over time
- A desire to be helpful or be the center of attention
- Distractions or inattention that prevent the witness from understanding what happened
- Personal prejudices that cause the witness to interpret an event in a certain way
Most witnesses aren’t going to directly say that they’re biased. It’s up to the defense in a criminal law case to identify possible bias and effectively question the witness. Once a witness presents evidence of bias, the defense can point out the bias to the jury when making arguments. They can ask the jury to question the reliability of the testimony when deciding how to weigh the person’s statements. Effectively challenging witnesses is one part of a comprehensive defense strategy.
Cross examination in a criminal defense strategy
A defendant has the right to question witnesses. Remembering to question whether eyewitness testimony is credible is one way to defend against criminal charges. Cross-examining a witnesses may be one part of a complete defense strategy that includes questioning the state’s evidence, challenging legal issues and presenting defenses to the charges.