The State Only Has One He Said/She Said Witness. Isn't That Hearsay?
Witness Testimony and Hearsay
We often get questions about whether the State can convict you of a crime when they only have one single witness in a "he said/she said" type of case. We usually get the question, "Isn't that hearsay?"
No. Eyewitness testimony is not hearsay. Hearsay relates to when a witness testifies about an out of court statement. For example, if Jill testifies, "John told me that Phil punched him," this statement is hearsay because Jill is testifying about John's out of court statement. Now if John testifies that Phil punched him, that is not hearsay, because John is testifying to what happened, not what somebody told him.
Also, hearsay is not always inadmissible. There are many exceptions to the hearsay rule where an out of court statement would be admissible.
Unfortunately, the answer is yes, if the jury believes that one witness beyond a reasonable doubt. Of course, your attorney should work hard to discredit that witness by exposing the witness's bias, lack of perception or perspective, issues with memory, conflicts in the testimony, influence of drugs or alcohol, impeachment through prior convictions and other methods of cross examination. Lack of corroboration will help your defense and increase the probability that a jury would conclude that there was reasonable doubt.
In every criminal case, a judge will instruct a jury on how to weigh the evidence, including witness testimony. The judge will tell the jury that it is up to them to decide which evidence is reliable and for them to use their common sense.
The jury can disregard all of the witness's testimony, some of the witness's testimony, or none of the witness's testimony.
A jury will be told to consider the following:
- Did the witness seem to have an opportunity to see and know the things about which the witness testified?
- Did the witness seem to have an accurate memory?
- Was the witness honest and straight forward in answering the attorneys' questions?
- Did the witness have some interest in how the case should be decided?
- Does the witness's testimony agree with the other testimony and other evidence in the case?
- Has the witness been offered or received any money, preferred treatment, or other benefit in order to get the witness to testify
- Had any pressure or threat been used against the witness that affected the truth of the witness's testimony?
- Did the witness at some other time make a statement that is inconsistent wit the testimony he or she gave in court?
- Has the witness been convicted of a felony, misdemeanor involving dishonesty, or false statement?
- Does the witness have a general reputation for dishonesty or truthfulness?
In a one witness case, it is extremely important to investigate and prepare a thorough cross examination of that witness. Because the entire case lives and dies based on the credibility of that one witness, lack of preparation can lead to a lying witness appearing like a truthful witness. These cases require experienced attorneys who have conducted many prior cross examinations and understand the precise and diligent preparation required for a successful cross examination.
He Said/She Said Testimony,
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