The Role of Witness Statements in a First-Degree Assault CaseLet’s start with the obvious: assault in the first degree is a serious, potentially life-ruining charge. Not only can it land you in hot legal water, but the charge alone can destroy your reputation. A conviction? Forget it.

And it’s not hard to get charged, either. According to Maryland Code 3-202, you can be charged with first-degree assault even if you did not physically hurt a person. If you  threaten  someone while holding a weapon, touch a person’s neck during an argument, or unsuccessfully attempt to cause harm to an individual, this is considered a first-degree assault and can result in 25 years of prison and a felony charge.

And you know how a lot of these cases get decided? Witness statements. So let’s talk about witnesses, and how they can affect an assault case.

What are witness statements and why are they used?

One of the ways that prosecutors prepare for their court hearing is by speaking with witnesses. These individuals are typically called to give their testimony statements in a trial hearing because they may have seen or heard something important that is related to the crime.

When the witness is called upon to explain what they know about the event that occurred, this is called a witness statement. They may be asked to sit on the witness stand next to the judge and go over the details of what happened the day of the altercation. There are three different types of witnesses, which are:

  • An eyewitness: An eyewitness is usually the most common type of witness used in court hearings. These witnesses saw the event take place and are called to explain in detail what happened.
  • An expert witness: An expert witness is a professional who is educated, trained, and experienced in a specific field related to the case. They do not testify on the facts of the case, but, instead, they focus on their specialty area and how it relates to the case. For example, if an injury occurs, a doctor may be used as an expert witness to explain the details of the injury, how it happened, and the medical treatment outlook for the individual.
  • A character witness: A character witness is simply an individual who knows the person involved in the case. They did not see or hear how the situation occurred, but they know about the character and personality of the individual involved. Therefore, they may be able to help the case by describing the person. Neighbors, family members, teachers, managers, and friends are often called to be character witnesses.

Witness statements vs. victim impact statements

Witnesses make their statements before and during trial. But a victim impact statement happens before sentencing, and man – they can pack a wallop. A victim impact statement “describe[s] the emotional, physical, and financial impact [victims] have suffered as a direct result of the crime. Victim impact statements can be either written or oral statements.”

The thing about impact statements is that they’re not supposed to be public, but that isn’t always the cse. Sometimes they get leaked; sometimes, in really high profile cases, they get entered into the record. They’re supposed to ensure that the court understands the true effect of a criminal act, but I’ve got some real issues with them. Impact statements can sway a judge, even though they don’t present anything new, you know? They’re not supposed to, but they can. And maybe that judge, who was going to be a little lenient in sentencing because the person was a first-time offender, gets all revved up – and guess who pays the price?

How can an Annapolis criminal defense lawyer defend against witness statements?

Although witnesses are required to take an oath stating that they will tell the truth before giving their statements, it is not uncommon for a witness to take the stand and begin giving false information. When this happens, I would like nothing more than to jump up and shout that they are lying, but that only harms my clients: no one likes a jerk lawyer, especially judges and juries. . Therefore, I must come up with other ways to fight back against witness statements for my clients, such as:

  • Discrediting the witness: One of the most common ways to fight back and prove that a witness is lying is to discredit a statement they have provided. For example, if they state that the argument started in an alley, but my client mentions that there was never an alley, I will begin to question them about this alley to prove that what they have said is untrue. In addition, if the details of their statements contradict their own testimony, I’ll be sure to raise that issue. After all, if a witness can’t remember their own story, how do we know which version is the truth?
  • Presenting contradictory testimony from a different witness: When a victim or witness is put on the stand and gives their statement about what happened, I may challenge the statement given by asking that a different witness go to the stand and provide their statement. So if the prosecutor’s witness says my client through the first punch, but we have a witness who says my client threw his hands up in front of his face in self-defense, and only touched the alleged victim to push him away, I can create some cracks in the prosecutor’s narrative.
  • Looking at the circumstances and evidence: I am dedicated to my clients and ensuring that their side of the story is told and upheld. Therefore, when a victim takes the witness stand and makes the claim that my client threatened to attack or harmed them in any way, I will look at all evidence, circumstances, and factors to discredit the statement. For example, if the victim is claiming that something happened during an argument with my client, I will look at the pieces of evidence provided, such as photographs and video footage, to determine if it is factual and matches what they are saying.

If there is evidence that proves that what the victim or witness is saying is incorrect, you can be sure I’ll point it out. If my evidence is taken into consideration, their statement will be discredited, and their honesty will be questioned. This may result in having the case thrown out and dismissed.

If you believe that witness statements will be used against you to convict you of first-degree assault, it is critical that you seek help from Drew Cochran Attorney at Law as soon as possible. With over two decades of assisting clients with similar situations, I have become fluent in the use of witness statements in first-degree assault cases, and I know what to do to help you overcome these stressful challenges and secure the best results possible. At Drew Cochran Attorney at Law, we serve clients in Annapolis and Ellicott City. Submit our contact form today for a free consultation, and we will be prepared to answer any questions or concerns you may have!

And remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.