Before a criminal case goes to trial, a deposition might be taken. When a deposition occurs, a witness will be under oath, and will be asked oral or written questions. An authorized person of the court, usually a top court reporter, will record the answers. In criminal case depositions, the testimony of those involved could be used for the trial. Sometimes, potential witnesses are not available to testify at trial, so they can be examined at a deposition. A defendant can cross examine the witness if he chooses. Criminal depositions are an important part of the justice process, and an important opportunity to ask the right questions. Here are 3 key questions to ask in a criminal case deposition.
- Have you ever been arrested?it is important to know the history of the witness, and their history with law enforcement. The opposition might object to this question, but it is a fair question, and you have the right to ask. If the witness has prior convictions, their testimony could be, at the very least, discredited.
- Before this case, what was your relationship to the defendant? It is crucial to know the relationship between the person on the stand and the defendant. It might be useful to establish a connection between the parties. The possible witness could have a grudge against the defendant and have ulterior motives, or might not know the defendant, and offer unbiased testimony.
- Have you signed anything, or spoken to the media about the case? With social media so prevalent today, it is important to establish what this witness has said, and to whom they have said it. Most lawyers will do their homework and already know the answer to this question. If the witness does not answer truthfully, and you know that he or she is lying, this could be beneficial to your case.
When deposing a witness, it is important that your questions are clearly articulated. The jurors will not even hear some of the testimony presented. The witness needs to understand the question so that he or she can answer appropriately. The questions can make or break a case, so it is important to ask the right ones.
Objections might be made, but normally, the witness is required to answer all questions. Depositions can last anywhere from 10 minutes to several days. If the deposition takes a long time, you should take several breaks to organize your thoughts.
In a deposition, it is important to find out what the witness knows, so you can bring an effective case before the court. The information he or she provides may help you understand the case better, so you will know how to proceed. Depositions normally take place in an attorney’s office, and in some cases might be videotaped.
Good lawyers go into a deposition prepared, and should almost always know the answer to the questions before it is asked. Depositions are an important time to gather information that could benefit your client’s case.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Veritext for their insight into personal injury depositions.