How to interpret witness lists

April 18, 2013

Lawyers rarely, if ever, call everyone listed on their witness list and sometimes they will call someone who is not on their list.

Generally, they will list everyone they believe they might call to the stand, including listing several people who would testify about one thing when only one witness is necessary and testimony by the others would be cumulative and likely inadmissible.

Prosecution witness lists tend to be more accurate and reliable because they have the burden of proof and put on their case first.

Defense counsel usually include many prosecution witnesses on their lists but never call them to the stand because they make their points while cross examining them after the prosecution calls them to the stand and completes the direct examination. Since the defense usually makes its case during cross examination, you will not often see it present much of a case after the prosecution rests. Two major exceptions would be defense expert testimony and testimony by the defendant.

Scheduling witness testimony and arranging travel and overnight accommodations is a major hassle that requires patience and flexibility to change plans without appearing to miss a step.

When the judge says, “Call your next witness,” you better be ready to go.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting today that the defense has filed a new witness list listing more than 200 people, including more than half of the Sanford Police Department.

I cannot imagine why they did that since a lot of those people probably had nothing to do with investigating this case and their opinions regarding the guilt or innocence of the defendant or his character are irrelevant and inadmissible.

In fact, the defense dare not open the door by introducing evidence of the defendant’s good character. That would permit the prosecution to introduce evidence about the defendant’s bad character. In other words, Katie bar the door.

To get a more realistic idea of whom the defense might call to the stand, compare the prosecution and defense lists and eliminate every name on the defense list that also appears on the prosecution list.

Eliminate the SPD cops and everyone else on the defense list who might be a character witness.

The remainder is a reasonable ball-park guesstimate.

Should be pretty much limited to experts.

That’s the list I am most interested in.

The rest, not so much.

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