By Hon. (Ret.) Ken E. Adair
Be Kind and Respectful to Snitch Witnesses
Video Transcribed: This is Trial Attorney, Ken Adair speaking on snitch witnesses. When there’s a snitch witness in your criminal case, the temptation is to just beat them up. They’re scoundrels, they’re liars, they have criminal records, they’re not to be trusted and you just want to beat up on them so bad, and what I’ve learned in the course of my studies, especially when I was at the trial lawyer college, and since then, I’ve been involved with training with the trial lawyer college, been to a lot of seminars.
One of the things you learn is it’s not really a bad idea at all to learn to respect and be empathetic to and express love and compassion for people, even if they’re averse to your case. A snitch witness typically involves somebody who’s going to give testimony against your client, and the prosecution will be very careful to couch their testimony in terms of if there is a deal or a promise of consideration.
There’s the idea that the snitch witness wants to look good in the eyes of the prosecutor, and they make a deal with the prosecutor that if they testify “truthfully” … and I’m going to use the Chris Farley quotes here … if they testify truthfully, they might get some special consideration or they have a deal for consideration if they “tell the truth”, and the only problem with that is that more often than not, the snitch witness is somebody that “overheard” something in jail that wasn’t an eye witness to the alleged crime.
They weren’t an eye witness to what your client did or didn’t do, and neither was the prosecutor and neither were you, and it’s okay to admit to the jury, “I wasn’t there, but neither was the prosecutor, and in most cases, neither were the police officers that came in after the fact and wrote police reports.”
Sometimes they put things in quotes, sometimes they didn’t put things in quotes, and all the time, their reports are not perfect. They are always imperfect. It’s hard to get them to admit it, but the jury already knows that. So don’t harp on that, but you have a snitch witness who’s in jail, or they wouldn’t have met your client in jail to snitch on them, and they know what it’s like in jail, and more often than not, they have loved ones.
More often than not, they have kids, but what’s it like in jail? Ask them just honest questions. They sleep with their head about 18 inches away from a toilet bowl and they don’t share a cell with one or two other people anymore. It’s usually four or five or six people in a cell, and why do you sleep with your head next to the toilet?
Well, because if you don’t do that, you sleep with your head down by the jail door or the cell door and it’s a very dangerous place to be, and until you’ve been there or you’ve asked your clients or you’ve asked other inmates what it’s like, “Why do you sleep with your head by the toilet and not by the door? Wouldn’t the air be fresher down there?” Well, it’s dangerous. If somebody is able to pop your lock or if the door’s not locked properly, somebody wants to come in and do you harm, you’re a lot more vulnerable with your head by the door.
Ask them those questions, ask what it’s like. “You would do anything for your children, wouldn’t you? And you’ve been asked to tell the truth, but I don’t get to judge whether or not you tell the truth.” Brian doesn’t get to judge whether or not you told the truth. Other people that might’ve been there don’t get to judge whether or not you told the truth. Somebody that wasn’t there that doesn’t have personal knowledge of the facts gets to judge whether or not you’re telling the truth.”
And you can be respectful and kind to that snitch witness, because they’re in a predicament and they may not admit it and they may be emphatic, but the jury is going to recognize that they’re in a predicament. They have to tell the truth as the da, as the prosecutor expects them to tell it, even though the prosecutor does not have any personal knowledge whatsoever about what did and did not happen. Keep that in mind when you have a snitch witnesses.
Be kind, be empathetic, be compassionate to that witness and get them to admit that they have a dilemma, or at least paint a picture to the jury, even if ultimately in the end after they admit what it’s like and that they have kids and loved ones and they’d do anything for their children and they’re not testifying truthfully. They’re testifying in a way that the prosecutor will deem that it’s truthful when the prosecutor is not in a position to state that it was the truth.
In fact, it’s illegal for them to convey to the jury their opinion of whether or not your client’s guilty, and so this process they use kind of belies that rule and it’s inconsistent with that rule, but don’t get mean and beat up on these snitch witnesses. They’re in a bad predicament.
They’re between a rock and a hard place, and if you’ll just demonstrate that to a jury, I’m pretty sure you’ll have more success than if you try to beat them up. Thank you and I hope this video has been helpful to you. If You are looking for First and Second Chair Co-Counsel, Focus Groups & Mock Jury Sociometrics, Jury Trial Preparation Services, visit trial-win.com