Enemy Witness - Definition, Examples, Cases, Processes (2023)

Awitnesscalled an “enemy witness” when refusing to tell the truth in court after swearing to do so; or if he is frank with the party who called him as a witness. The side calling the witness, whether prosecuting or defending, believes the witness will provide similar informationProofto the court provided in its pre-trial statement. If the witness then chooses to lie or refuses to lieresponderThe party summoning the witness may ask questions during the testimonyRichterdeclare the witness hostile. This allows for a different tactic in questioning. To explore this concept, consider the following definition of an enemy witness.

Definition of hostile witness


  1. A witness who refuses to tell the truth in court after previously stating he would.
  2. A witness showing upbiasagainst the case of the party calling the witness.

What is an enemy witness

A hostile witness is someone who appears to be refusing to tell the truth in court - or someone whose actions or statements are at odds with the party calling them. Witnesses provide what is called "pre-judgementStatements,” which are statements that essentially summarize the relevance of that witness to that particular case. The statement contains the facts and evidence that a witness is willing to present at a public hearing at the trial.

However, a witness will be declared hostile if his testimony differs materially from his testimony at the preliminary hearing. For example, an enemy witness is no longer credible and as such your own lawyer can treat him as if he were working for the opposition and question him accordingly.

Who Can Be Considered an Enemy Witness?

Hostile witnesses can only be declared as such by a judge, but usually at the request of the interrogating counsel. In determining who may be considered a hostile witness, the judge will decide whether the witness should in fact be treated as hostile based on the witness's conduct and credibility. The judge can also rule that the witness is an unfavorable witness, not a hostile witness. This means that just because the witness provides unhelpful or unfavorable evidence does not mean that they do so in an effort to be vindictive.

What happens when someone is declared an enemy witness?

If a judge rules that the witness on the stand is acting as a hostile witness, the attorney who summoned that witness may be permitted to ask questions as if interviewing the witness. The attorney can ask leading questions to the witness to get him to say what the attorney wants him to say. The attorney may also cross-examine his own witness based on the content of the witness's pre-trial testimony. In this case, the statement serves only as evidence that the witness is making contradictory statements. It does not prove whether the information contained in the statement actually corresponds to the facts.


If a witness is declared hostile, he is accused of contradicting his pre-trial testimony on the witness stand. If an attorney suspects that a witness is hostile, he makes a motion to the judge in the judge's absenceJury, and asked the judge to treat the witness as hostile. If the judge agrees, the jury is informed that the witness made a statement that is materially different or contradictory to his previous one.

If the witness disputes this, he will be asked to leave the statement. The person who heard the witness's pre-trial testimony is then asked to appear and prove to the judge that the testimony was made. The witness is then asked back into the booth and shown his previous statement so he can identify it as his own. Specifically, the witness is shown the portion of the testimony that he is accused of contradicting.

If the witness agrees that there was a contradiction, the judge orders the jury to disregard his testimony and the witness is discredited. However, if he continues to deny an objection, his statement will be taken as evidence. This means that his testimony will be read to the jury as evidence that he made a contradicting statement. Once the testimony is read in evidence, the judge makes it clear to the jury that the content of the witness's written testimony does not prove the facts in the testimony. Rather, it is just evidence that shows the credibility of the witness, or lack thereof.

main questions

Lawyers are banned by therules of evidenceasking "guiding questions" of their own witnesses. A leading question is one that trains a witness and leads him to the answer that the attorney wants him to answer. In other words, leading questions “feed” the witness by putting words in their mouths. Consider the following example:

In a judgment in a matter concerning acar accident, ÖplaintiffThe lawyer calls his witness to testify that the traffic light was reddefendantcollided with it. The attorney could ask his witness, "What color was the light?" This allows the witness to testify based on his own experience.

The lawyer cannot ask, "Isn't it true that the traffic light was red?" The light may actually have been yellow, but the witness may still feel pressured to state that it was red to appease the attorney. This questioning can distort the truth about what really happened. Even if the traffic light is red, it is important that the witness comes to this conclusion on his own initiative and not because he has been asked to testify or has been “guided” to a specific answer by his lawyer. In addition, the other side's attorney can object to this matter as the "main administrator".

Leading questions are usually not allowed because courts want witnesses to testify based on what they know, not what their attorney tells them. Instead, attorneys should ask open-ended questions, and the witness can respond with completely unprovoked answers. However, the rules change for a witness declared “hostile” by a judge. For example, hostile witnesses may be questioned in the hope that such questions will lead to testimony that the witness would otherwise be reluctant to give.

Example of an enemy witness in a murder trial

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of a hostile witness being declared in a court case is that of Brian ("Kato") Kaelin in 1995MurderTrial against O.J. Simpsons. Here, Assistant District Attorney Marcia Clark asked Judge Lance Ito to declare Kaelin a hostile witness, and her request was granted. Woman. Clark then attempted to frame Kaelin as a witness who altered portions of her testimony to help Simpson. She also reminded the jury that when prosecutors alleged that Simpson killed his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and her boyfriend, Ronald Goldman, Kaelin was unable to explain Simpson's whereabouts.

Clark, who had called Kaelin as a witness for the prosecution, believed Kaelin would be evasive during his testimony, so she asked Judge Ito to declare him a hostile witness. This was done so Clark could proceed with important questions normally reserved for cross-examination. Both Clark and Robert Shapiro, one of Simpson's defense attorneys, yanked and shoved Kaelin to get him to say what they wanted him to say.

Clark prompted Kaelin to admit that on the day of the murders, Simpson was upset by Nicole's efforts to limit her time with her daughter during her dance night. Simpson was also reportedly upset with the tight dress Nicole appeared to be wearing that day. Clark's intent was to show that Simpson's behavior reflected the passionate anger that could lead to the vicious murder that took place just hours later. On the other hand, Shapiro tried to trivialize Simpson's behavior to show the jury that Simpson was just kidding.

Kaelin also testified three times during the same testimony in which Simpson admitted that he and Nicole would never get back together. Kaelin stood as a witness for several days, and over time his testimony weakened. He strove to reassure opposing attorneys in answering his lead questions and grapple with his own recollections of the events that unfolded.

One of the main questions Clark asked him concerned a small black backpack that Kaelin had seen near Simpson's Bentley just before Simpson left on a trip to Chicago on the day of the murders. Shapiro suggested the bag was full of golf balls. Instead, Clark offered an alternative in the form of leading questions: "Now, that backpack, was it big enough to hold a knife? ... Was that backpack big enough to hold bloody clothes and shoes?" Shapiro disagreed with both questions, and the judge upheld his objections.

As for Shapiro, he asked Kaelin if Simpson was "acting any differently than the O.J. Simpson he's been popularizing for the last year and a half." When Kaelin replied, "No, it's no different," Shapiro continued, "He wasn't trying to put words in your mouth, was he?" To which Kaelin responded with a flat "No." Shapiro continued, "Did he ever ask you to alibi him or lie to him?" Clark successfully countered that question.

Shapiro realized that Kaelin was being bullied by Clark and decided to take advantage of this in hopes of inciting resentment against her in the jury. He did this by peppering him with leading questions: "Are you afraid of Mrs. Klar? Does she scare you? Are you uncomfortable with her? Do you think she gave you the opportunity to do your best and be fair? Does she intimidate you in any way? Kaelin replied that she wasn't afraid of Clark herself, but yes, her questions were scary.

Terms and Related Legal Issues

  • survey– The questioning or cross-examination of a witness summoned by the opposition, often with the aim of discrediting the testimony of the witness.
  • defendant– A party against whom a claim has been brought in a civil court or who has been charged or charged with a felony or misdemeanor.
  • Defense Attorney -A lawyer who represents a person who is being prosecuted.
  • objection– A lawyer's expression of disagreement with something said during afilingor judgement.
  • applicant– A person who takes legal action against another person or entity as described in acivil process, or criminal proceedings.
  • accusation -ÖLawyeror attorneys pursuing and prosecuting a case against a person accused of committing a crime.
  • to maintain -A judge's recognition of an objection as valid.
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