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Witness Credibility Checklist

By Clayton T. Robertson (Criminal Defense / Civil Rights Attorney)


Sometimes the best of us forget to go back to basics. I happen to be a fan of checklists. They assist in evaluating and completing simple and complex tasks.


Often the best "checklists" for lawyers are contained in rules, statutes, and cases.


For example, to bolster or challenge a witness's credibility, a lawyer may start with California Evidence Code section 780.


ARTICLE 1. Credibility Generally - Evid. C. 780:


Except as otherwise provided by statute, the court or jury may consider in determining the credibility of a witness any matter that has any tendency in reason to prove or disprove the truthfulness of his testimony at the hearing, including but not limited to any of the following:


(a) His demeanor while testifying and the manner in which he testifies.


(b) The character of his testimony.


(c) The extent of his capacity to perceive, to recollect, or to communicate any matter about which he testifies.


(d) The extent of his opportunity to perceive any matter about which he testifies.


(e) His character for honesty or veracity or their opposites.


(f) The existence or nonexistence of a bias, interest, or other motive.


(g) A statement previously made by him that is consistent with his testimony at the hearing.


(h) A statement made by him that is inconsistent with any part of his testimony at the hearing.


(i) The existence or nonexistence of any fact testified to by him.


(j) His attitude toward the action in which he testifies or toward the giving of testimony.


(k) His admission of untruthfulness.


Of course, witness credibility is a complex issue, and it involves other considerations that depend on the witness and case type. But if your attorney starts with the above "factors" in mind, they are off to a good start.



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