The police have begun to move on a murder that occurred in 1998 after DNA evidence linked two men to the crime scene. The one man agreed to testify against the other and now, the defense team representing the other man has moved to gain access to the witness and co-conspirator’s medical history. The idea is to suggest that the defendant lacked the ability to remember that he committed a murder in 1998 or any of the details concerning that murder. In other words, they want to suggest that the individual is so unreliable, their testimony should not be admissible in court.
The court has agreed to give the defense access to the witness’s medical records. From this, they will be able to build a defense that the witness is either simply saying what the police want to hear in exchange for testimony against the other defendant and his ability to recall details from such a long time ago is compromised by psychiatric illness and intervention.
Is This Tactic Likely to be Successful?
Well, the defendant still has to explain what he was doing at the scene of a triple murder and how his DNA got there. Police would need to establish that there were five men at the scene, and the defendant walked away with the witness. The defendant can claim that he had gone to the home before and that is how his DNA got there (depending on how the DNA was acquired). In some cases, DNA evidence can link to a specific moment in time. In other cases, it can be hard to establish how or when the DNA got there. In the case of a bludgeoning death, as in this trial, you are going to have a lot of blood. It is unlikely that any of that blood would belong to the defendant. However, if his blood is at the scene, then that would be a good indication that he was there for the murder. In that case, the strength of the witness statement would not really matter and the witness is unlikely to have been given a deal to provide testimony.
However, relying on witness statements can be tricky for prosecutors, especially when it comes to plea bargains for testimony or individuals who have spent years getting certain types of psychiatric intervention. As an example, if the witness had received shock therapy, it could easily cause memory problems. Certain medications can also make it more difficult to remember, but in most cases, these medications make it easier for psychiatric patients to use executive functioning.
Since the witness will have to go on the stand to testify, the defense will be able to cross-examine them. That could end up being a problem for the prosecution if the defendant trips up on key details concerning the crime. The defense will certainly try to get the witness to trip over themselves, contradict themselves, or recall things improperly to suggest to the jury that they are either lying or do not really remember.
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Chicago criminal defense attorney, David Freidberg, handles high-profile murder charges. Call today to schedule an appointment and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.