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You are given two scenarios in this question in which significant witnesses were excluded from testifying by trial judges. Please cite any applicable rules and analyze the issues from the perspective of the defense.
Some rules of evidence disqualify witnesses who have knowledge of relevant facts as well as the mental capacity to express their knowledge. These rules are great obstacles in the path to truth. Consider the following two hypothetical scenarios, and answer the questions that follow:
- A defendant accused of murder claimed temporary insanity as a defense. Lay witnesses testified about the defendant’s physical appearance and mental and emotional behavior before, at the time of, and after the homicide. The trial court excluded the offered testimonies, but on appeal, the Supreme Court reversed this decision. In this scenario, discuss the possible reason for which the testimonies of lay witnesses were initially excluded and later admitted. What arguments could the court of appeal use in favor of the defendant?
- A defendant accused of robbery called his mother as a witness. The court refused to permit his mother to testify although she was identified as having been with the defendant at a high-school wrestling match at the time of the robbery. She was the only witness who could prove the defendant’s innocence.If courts are reluctant to exclude lay witnesses with direct personal knowledge of the case when called by criminal defendants then, in the above scenario, why do you think the defendant’s mother was disqualified as a witness? Evaluate the chances of the defendant winning the appeal. What arguments can the defendant’s lawyer use in his defense?
Impeaching a witness is a very important part of the litigation process. Please analyze this question in the context of the appropriate rules regarding impeachment.
One of attacks on a witness’s credibility used in the process of impeachment is by engaging the witness’s prior inconsistent statements.
Read the following case:
A driver of a car hits a bicyclist and drives away. Melanie testifies for the plaintiff. She says that the defendant’s car was moving at a speed of about 50 mph or more.
The defendant wants to impeach Melanie and presents the testimony of Wanda who says that Melanie told her a day after the accident that the defendant was driving slowly.
Wanda is a trooper; she does not remember Melanie’s statement. The defendant presents Wanda’s accident report, which was written a day after the accident. The report includes Melanie’s alleged statement.
Based on the case:
- Identify whether or not the witness is to be impeached.
- Provide arguments for or against the impeachment.
- Identify the nature and purpose of the prior statement.
- Identify the possible outcome of the case.
In your opinion, how much inconsistency should be allowed between a witness’ testimony and the previous statement(s) to permit impeachment? In your discussion, you can use arguments found in State v. Brown and Commonwealth v. West.