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ironpony
04-20-2016, 10:09 AM
In my story I have a criminal court case where three witnesses are going to testify. I researched that they all wait out in the hall, or in a waiting room, and one testifies, while the others wait, then it's the next person's turn, while the other two wait, etc.

However, if all the witnesses are suppose to wait in the same room, or all in the hall, wouldn't they be able to talk to each other about the case, and thus, they can get ideas to add things to their testimony that could be considered tampering?

In my story I definitely see one witness trying to charm info out of another, and was wondering, what the court would do about that, if they are all suppose to wait in the same room?

Thanks for the information. I really appreciate it.

jclarkdawe
04-20-2016, 05:46 PM
It is the responsibility of the attorney presenting witnesses to make sure they don't talk about the case. If witnesses are sequestered, often they'll be parked in different places. Alternatively, someone babysits them.

If sequestered witnesses talk, potentially you've got witness tampering, contempt of court, and a prejudicial mistrial. There are way too many permutations to figure out what's likely to happen.

Jim Clark-Dawe

cornflake
04-20-2016, 06:52 PM
In my story I have a criminal court case where three witnesses are going to testify. I researched that they all wait out in the hall, or in a waiting room, and one testifies, while the others wait, then it's the next person's turn, while the other two wait, etc.

However, if all the witnesses are suppose to wait in the same room, or all in the hall, wouldn't they be able to talk to each other about the case, and thus, they can get ideas to add things to their testimony that could be considered tampering?

In my story I definitely see one witness trying to charm info out of another, and was wondering, what the court would do about that, if they are all suppose to wait in the same room?

Thanks for the information. I really appreciate it.

Courthouses generally have more than one room. They're entire buildings, or parts thereof.

Lawyers rarely work alone.

ironpony
04-21-2016, 02:14 AM
Okay thanks. So basically all three witnesses will be waiting in different rooms then. So if all three witnesses are the prosecutor's witnesses, then the prosecutor will have a babysitter for each one of them?

Plus before going to court the witnesses in the story were free to go any where they want to work, to their families, and do anything in their private lives. So if they are allowed to do that, then that's not being sequestered is it?

Or do you mean they are only suppose to be sequestered once they get to the courthouse for their testimonies?

jclarkdawe
04-21-2016, 03:07 AM
It's complicated. Of course some witnesses are going to be talking with each other before the trial. Then again, there's a couple of county attorneys in New Hampshire that if we tried to get a jury that didn't know them, we'd have to go to another county.

But the main reason a defense attorney wants the witnesses sequestered is because we don't want the witnesses knowing exactly how we're going to approach things. Especially if there is something that the witnesses don't know we have.

People's memories are funny things. If you hear someone else tell what happened, and then are asked about it, you'll base a lot of your statement on what you just heard. It can cause you to say something that you couldn't have seen or heard, as you blur the memories together. But witnesses review their statements prior to trial, so there's some limit on how "pure" a witnesses memory on the stand is.

What you're concerned about is when someone is trying to get a witness to say something. That's witness tampering. But if you are family or friends, you're probably going to talk about the case. It's probably one of the major things that happened to you in life.

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironpony
04-21-2016, 05:13 AM
Yep, that makes sense. In my story, two of the witnesses in the case are cops, and one of them, is a victim which they rescued who was kidnapped by the defendant. Would they all be put in the same room, or would they have different rooms for each, if this were the case?

cornflake
04-21-2016, 05:19 AM
What is it you want to happen? Write that.

blacbird
04-21-2016, 05:42 AM
You might also go sit through a criminal trial, as an observer. They are generally open to the public, and it's about the best kind of research you can do, if you're going to write fiction about such things.

caw

jclarkdawe
04-21-2016, 05:44 AM
The two cops you don't care about. They know the rules, and they won't be a problem. Depending upon how many cops are in court that day depends upon where they are hanging out. The victim would be with the victim advocate and probably an assistant prosecutor.

There's way too much trial strategy here or in other words, lots of variables. If I'm the prosecutor, I want the victim in the courtroom for my opening. Then the question is whether the victim is a strong witness. If the victim is a strong witness, I might want him or her first and keep him or her in the courtroom afterwards. On the other hand, maybe I can present a better story if I call the victim last. Maybe the defense doesn't care about whether the victim is in the courtroom for the trial. Defense might not be arguing that the kidnapping took place, but that the defendant didn't do it. In which case who cares whether the victim is in the courtroom.

What does the story need?

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironpony
04-21-2016, 06:01 AM
Well I know what I want to happen for the story. I don't think there is a problem there. But I just do not know the proper procedures to write with that. Is a prosecutor allowed to keep a victim in a courtroom for the opening, or for the majority of the case? The victim could overhear other witnesses, and things that could make her change her statements, couldn't it?

I thought it was proper to keep the victim out of the courtroom at all times, accept for the testimony. Unless I am wrong?

As for what order the witnesses would be called, I haven't decided that either. The order doesn't technically matter for the story, but trying to figure out how it would happen in a matter of technicalities.

jclarkdawe
04-21-2016, 06:48 AM
Either side can ask that some or all witnesses be sequestered. It really depends. I've done it sometimes, sometimes I haven't. I've let the victim stay in the courtroom sometimes, and sometimes I didn't.

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironpony
04-21-2016, 06:50 AM
Okay thanks. What were your reasons for letting the victim stay in the room, when you have, while others testify and give information on the case?

jclarkdawe
04-21-2016, 04:25 PM
Depends upon what you think is going to work better. I did always like the story of the defense attorney who let the victim stay in the courtroom. Victim (of a rape) testified last, and defense strategy was very simple.After the prosecutor had the victim testify for a day in gory detail, the defense attorney asks, "Are you sure this is the guy?" Victim wasn't sure, forensics were crap, five minute closing by the defense, and a not guilty. Defense attorney was confident that the victim couldn't identify the defendant.

Trial strategy is immensely complex as you try to figure out what is the best end game.

Jim Clark-Dawe

WeaselFire
04-21-2016, 06:17 PM
In my story, two of the witnesses in the case are cops...

Cops in the area I was used to hang out at the back of the court room playing poker. Cops don't falsify testimonies for 99% of cases, which is why when they do it makes the news. Usually they would be available for several cases during the day but, in the case of a major trial, might be detailed to the specific court case.

Your other witness might be sitting with a counselor to help them through the trauma and could have family members with them for support. It's these folks who would often shape the witness statement.

Jeff

ironmikezero
04-21-2016, 07:46 PM
Remember that it's almost always up to the sitting judge whether or not potential witnesses will be permitted to remain and hear any testimony offered by other witnesses. If either side (prosecution/defense) requests a rule on witnesses the judge will almost always grant the motion--all potential witnesses will be excluded (but required to standby/be accessible) until called.

ironpony
04-23-2016, 02:33 AM
Okay thanks. Well in my story the one civilian witness, is the victim of a kidnapping, testifying against the defendant. The defense attorney does not have a reason to keep the victim out of the courtroom, that would help his case, but would the prosecutor have a reason to request that from the judge in this type of case?


Depends upon what you think is going to work better. I did always like the story of the defense attorney who let the victim stay in the courtroom. Victim (of a rape) testified last, and defense strategy was very simple.After the prosecutor had the victim testify for a day in gory detail, the defense attorney asks, "Are you sure this is the guy?" Victim wasn't sure, forensics were crap, five minute closing by the defense, and a not guilty. Defense attorney was confident that the victim couldn't identify the defendant.

Who gets to decide when the victim if the victim is going to testify first or last? Are you saying it's up to the defense attorney to have her testify last, and not the prosecutor? Wouldn't the victim be the prosecutor's witness, and therefore, the prosecutor can decide when to bring her out?

blacbird
04-23-2016, 02:40 AM
Who gets to decide when the victim if the victim is going to testify first or last? Are you saying it's up to the defense attorney to have her testify last, and not the prosecutor? Wouldn't the victim be the prosecutor's witness, and therefore, the prosecutor can decide when to bring her out?

Both prosecution and defense present a list of witnesses, and each gets to call those witnesses in whatever order they please. The prosecution's case is presented first, so the defense gets to see how the case is presented, and has the chance to alter the preferred order of defense presentation accordingly, if desired. It's very likely that the victim will be a witness for the prosecution, of course, but not entirely a certainty. The victim may not be called as a witness at all. And both prosecution and defense have the right to recall witnesses as matters proceed.

caw

ironpony
04-23-2016, 01:38 PM
Okay thanks. If the victim is not called though, could that run the risk of losing? In my story, the prosecutor wants to bust some kidnappers, and it's a high profile media case, and he is ambitious about it. However, the victim does not want to testify, so the prosecutor subpoenas her too. But since the victim is being uncooperative and says she does not want to get involved, does the prosecutor have much of a chance of winning without testimony of the victim?

For example, the prosecutor has to present proof that a kidnapping occurred to the jury. But how is the jury suppose to believe that there was a crime, if they do not get any testimony from the victim? You can't have a crime without a victim, so how is the prosecutor suppose to prove that a victim exists at all, if the victim is not wanting to testify? Wouldn't subpoenaing her, be necessary to prove to the court, that there was a victim at all?

jclarkdawe
04-23-2016, 06:50 PM
Victims frequently don't testify in domestic violence cases. It is possible, although unusual, to put on a kidnapping case without the victim.

Everything an attorney does in a trial is intended to help his or her client win the case.

If it's a high profile case, and the victim doesn't want to testify, the case will probably plea. Prosecutors are great at spinning a plea into looking like a victory. Lacking a victim doesn't kill the case, but it makes it a lot harder. Basically the prosecutor says he agreed to a plea to avoid the victim suffering again.

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironpony
04-23-2016, 11:22 PM
Oh okay. When I was researching cases, I came across this one:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/02/25/alleged_rape_victim_arrested_to_force_her_to_coope rate_in_the_case_against.html

And I decided to have my prosecutor character force the kidnap victim to cooperate it, because he feels he loose without the victim confirming that the police found her. He wants her confirmation that she was there at all.

Would a prosecutor resort to this extreme of a tactic in this case, or would he proceed without the victim's testimony? What if the defendant didn't want to plea, and wants to take his chances at getting off, since the victim will not cooperate? What would the prosecutor do then, if he wanted to win?

jclarkdawe
04-24-2016, 02:00 AM
Your scenario becomes fun and incredibly complex.

Had a woman I was representing on welfare fraud for living with her husband. Husband is up in a different court for domestic violence on her during the period when supposedly she wasn't living with her husband. Prosecutor wanted my client to testify. I refused using 5th Amendment argument. It was ugly. Several trips in front of the judge, threats for me to be arrested as well as my client, just very, very ugly. Ended up the husband swung at one of the cops and the prosecutor dropped the domestic violence, and sent the husband to jail on an assault on a law officer.

Worked for me.

All sorts of things in play in this type of situation, especially if the media is involved. Prosecutor has to face the attacks for victimizing the victim. Question is whether the cost is worth the benefit.

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironpony
04-24-2016, 02:22 AM
Oh I am sorry to hear that happened to you. Thank you for sharing the case as a discussion.

Well I was told by one person that my scenario was a plot hole, cause the prosecutor is causing more problems for himself to force the victim to testify, when he doesn't need to, win the case. But I honestly do not see how a jury is going to believe that there was a victim at all, if she won't even testify to anything that happened.

blacbird
04-24-2016, 07:46 AM
Okay thanks. If the victim is not called though, could that run the risk of losing?

Of course it could. There's always the risk of losing a case, no matter what you do. You could equally lose the case even if the victim is called.

caw