In-Court Eyewitness Identifications – What Process is “Due” Process?

In any case where identification is at issue, the proverbial drumroll sounds at the crescendo of the witness examination when the prosecution asks “and do you see the person, here in this courtroom, who committed this crime?” And invariably the finger points at the accused. Who else would it be pointed at? The lawyers are

Learning From Mistakes: An Imperfect Cross-Examination

“By seeking and blundering we learn” – Goethe “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison. “A spelling mistake in the DNA of a gene within the brain seems to impair the ability of a person to improve their performance based on knowledge of earlier errors.” – News

If The Driver Had Been White…

As the nation reels after multiple shootings of civilians by police and the subsequent attack on police officers in Dallas, Texas, the words of Minnesota’s Governor that, “Would this have happened if those passengers would have been white? I don’t think it would have,” bear examination. Was he guessing? Condemning a specific police officer? Or

Do Lawyers Need Checklists to Reduce Error?

Can checklists reduce lawyer error? As they do for doctors or airline pilots or building engineers? Although the focus on this technique has largely been outside of the realm of the legal system, there is enough known to say that its application to lawyers is both necessary and likely to be beneficial. That lawyers do

When Judges May Not Judge

Perhaps it is not a startling position, but “when a judge earlier had significant, personal involvement as a prosecutor in a critical decision regarding the defendant’s case[,]” that judge must recuse himself or herself from judicial or appellate review. That principal is now enshrined not merely as one of professional conduct, but as a guarantee

Impeaching By Omission

The art of witness impeachment is inextricably bound with the substantive law of evidence. Evidence rules explicitly allow for impeachment of any witness (even one called by the party) and set the procedures for attacking with inconsistencies – the impeaching document need not be shown to the witness, and impeachment must occur with there being some opportunity for

The Prior Statement: If It Isn’t Signed, Is It Impeachment Material?

How should judges approach a case where a testifying witness is going to be impeached, but the impeaching document was not created or adopted by the witness?  What is the rule when the impeaching lawyer has a report by person “B” that avers what testifying witness “A” allegedly said?  The rule, as is developed below,

Taking the Sting Out: Using Direct Examination to Anticipate and Undercut Attacks on Your Witness

Sadly, it can be the rare witness who does not come with some baggage – a criminal conviction, a potential bias, an inconsistent statement, or some other challenge to her/his credibility. So, the proponent of that witness has to make a choice – bring it out first, or simply wait for the sting of cross-examination.

When There’s Only “Reasonable Doubt”

Law students are taught that the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard is the bedrock of the justice system, one that is desirable because, as Blackstone declared, it is “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” But does that resonate with jurors? In other words, when a lawyer argues that “the prosecution

The “Personal Knowledge” Rule: An Evidence Principle Worth Considering

Rare is the case [excepting expert testimony] where a witness is not describing what s/he claims to have seen, heard, smelled, touched or tasted. Without that sensory connection to the item at issue, there would be no relevance; and most lawyers abstain from calling a witness to testify to what was behind a closed door