Testimony from a key witness is a powerful tool in a trial. It is oftentimes the thing that will determine whether a jury will find a defendant guilty of innocent. Because of the great power witness testimony holds in trial, any unfavorable surprises concerning a witness and his or her background can make an attorney's case completely fall apart (on either side of the case). This could be the discovery that the witness lied, or it could be something about the individual's past (such as a criminal history or previously exposed lies) that makes the judge or jury question that person's integrity or ability to serve as a witness. This is why it is so important to have background investigations performed on all key witnesses before entering into trial.
The highly publicized Trayvon Martin case in Florida is one example of a case from this year in which a chief witness was caught in a lie. This witness, who was a witness for the prosecution, was described in news reports as Martin's girlfriend, who says she was on the phone with him just before the fatal shooting occurred. While she claimed that she did not attend Martin's funeral because she was in the hospital, it was later discovered that there was no record of her being in the hospital and that she had lied under oath, according to a Fox News story. The lie ended up gaining national attention and questions over whether or not the witness was credible. According to CNN, there were also inconsistencies concerning the witness' age--the attorney for the family of the shooting victim stated that the witness was 16 years old at the time of the killing, but prosecutors stated that she was 18 years old at that point.
This is just one example of the types of witness surprises that could occur. There are also many others that can be much more complex and damaging to a case. It is important to note that in addition to using background investigations to avoid surprises with your own witnesses, you can also use them to identify vulnerabilities in the other side's case. For example, the discovery of the lie mentioned above undoubtedly served as an additional boost for the defense in the Trayvon Martin case.
If you are a lawyer who needs a background investigation performed before a trial takes place, we invite you to reach out to our California legal investigative services company, Batza & Associates, Inc., which provides investigations exclusively for attorneys. We have highly competent private investigators who can help you build the foundation for a stronger case. Contact us so we can begin assisting you!