When it comes to talking about finding justice and truth in criminal cases, one of the central components of achieving this begins with the witness. The witness in a criminal case is typically someone who is testifying in court because they have either 1) observerd a crime or event or 2) have direct knowledge of a crime or event.
Here is more information about the types of witnesses that are brought to court, how they are brought to court and the expectations on them to report the truth.
To start, a witness is summoned to appear in court with a subpoena and for the most part, once you’ve been subpoenaed, you have to respond. Once at the hearing, all witnesses take the famous oath to tell the truth—“tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” If you act as a witness in court and do not tell the truth and are caught in a lie, you are charged with perjury, which is extremely serious.
So what types of witnesses can be brought to court?
The eyewitness is one who has either seen an alleged crime or a part of the crime and will bring his or her observational testimony of that crime to the hearing. While their testimony is sometimes deemed unreliable for different reasons, this testimony is preferred over circumstantial evidence. The key is finding a pattern, so lawyers will typically look for a consistent pattern amount other witnesses who recount the events to provide stronger credibility to the eyewitness account.
The expert witness is a witness who is an expert or maintains “superior” knowledge over the average person as it relates to a topic that they are asked to testify about. Examples of expert witnesses include physicians, forensic experts and psychologists.
The character witness is one who will speak for the reputation or the character of a person who is usually in the community where the witness lives. The character witness usually appears in a hearing to say the defendant is a good person or has qualities that put them above the accusation being made. This type of testimony is especially valuable when the defendant’s honesty or morality is in question—often something that comes up in case of fraud.
Why is it that there is so much conversation around the reliability of witness accounts? Here are some of the reasons that witness accounts are not as reliable as you might otherwise think:
Reliability of witness accounts
- They may have personal bias
- They might have the wrong timing
- They might describe something incorrectly
- They might have a habit that has influenced them to see or believe something happened differently than it actually did
Sometimes age impacts the ability of the witness to accurately remember details
According to the Innocence Project, “Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.”
Regardless of the type of witness you might interviewing when it comes to a case, using equipment that will best capture the entire interview is a must. While states differ now from jurisdiction to jurisdiction on the laws of recording custodial interviews, what’s important is that the witness receives the full benefit of having their testimony recorded in full and clearly prior to a trial so that it can be referenced if needed at a later time.
If your team is looking to improve the quality of recordings when it comes to capturing witness testimony, iRecord has a solution.
With a reputation of excellence and simplicity, iRecord’s digital audio and video recording system is one that will not fail the team—in court, in the interrogation room or anywhere else.
Contact us today to learn more!