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Understand witness testimony in a criminal trial

When a person goes on trial for a crime, he or she must present a case that introduces doubt into the mind of each jury member. Some of how this is done involves calling witnesses. It is important for each witness to understand certain points about giving testimony in criminal cases, such as sex crime cases.

People who are being called as witnesses can answer certain types of questions, but there are some that are off limits in almost every case. The questions that can be answered include those that ask the witness what was heard, seen, smelled or felt at the time of the incident in question.

Lay people, who are simply ordinary people, can draw specific conclusions if they are competent to do so. Some of the conclusions they can draw include those about a person's identity, the sobriety or intoxication of a person, size, speed, distance, demeanor, sanity and the value of property.

It is important that witnesses who are on the stand are credible. They must provide consistent statements and not have any prejudice in the case. People who are witnesses in criminal cases are often frowned upon if they have a criminal history. This isn't an absolute; however, a prior criminal history can have a negative impact on how a person's testimony is viewed.

When the prosecution opts to call witnesses to the stand in criminal cases, such as those for sex-related charges, the defense will sometimes need to call the credibility of the witness into question. This can be difficult, especially when the witness seems like a credible person. It is imperative to learn the options for handling witness testimony if you are heading to trial for crimes you are accused of committing.

Source: FindLaw, "The "Lay Opinion" Rule," accessed Jan. 03, 2017

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