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The decision on whether to give credibility to a witness is in the fact-finder’s hands. The jury instruction on point discusses the multiple factors that the jury can consider in deciding whether to believe the witness. The most common factors we review in considering a domestic violence case are the following:
  • Did the witness seem to have a good memory?
  • How did the witness look and act while testifying? Did the witness seem to be making an honest effort to tell the truth, or did the witness seem to evade the questions or argue with the lawyers.
  • Does the witness’s age and maturity affect how you judge his or her testimony.
  • Does the witness have any bias, prejudice, or personal interest in how this case is decided?
  • In general, does the witness have any special reason to tell the truth, or any special reason to lie?
  • All in all, how reasonable does the witness’s testimony seem when you think about all the other evidence in the case?
Of course it is vital for the jury to see the victim testify. How the victim comes across plays an important role in the case.

As for age and maturity, we look for whether the victim suffers from mental diabilities, such as bi-polar disorder. We look to see if the victim has ever made unsubstantiated accusations in the past. We also look for prior convictions. Has the victim ever been convicted of a violent crime before? We’ll also look to see if the victim has been convicted of a crime that indicates a lack of veracity, such as larceny, check fraud or embezzelment. Furthermore, the victim’s reputation in the community plays a role in the case too.

A common motive to fabricate domestic violence is to gain the edge in a pending family law case concerning child custody or property division. The presence of a pending family law case at the time the domestic violence is alleged to have occurred cannot be understated. In fact, it must be highlighted for many reasons.

Another factor on credibility is the physical evidence of harm.  Did the police take pictures of brusing? If so, what are the extent of those marks, and do the marks corroborate or contradict the victim’s version of events?

If the victim accuses the defendant of prior acts of domestic violence, we look to determine whether these acts were ever reported. Did the victim go to the hospital? Are there any pictures of the prior acts of harm? We’ll also inquire into a couples counseling, if the parties ever engaged in such activity. Did these prior acts of domestic violence ever come up?

Only after looking closely at these factors should the Defendant make a decision on whether to take a plea, if any are offered, or go to trial. Domestic violence is a hot, political topic. But at its core, these cases don’t differ significantly from the grey shades that are so common to family law cases. Having an experienced attorney familiar with both areas of law should be part of your consideration when deciding on which attorney you want to hire. Give us a call. See if we’re the right firm for you.*

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