If you’re involved in a Criminal case in Court and you’ve chosen to challenge or contest the charges against you in a trial, the second stage of the trial will involve the start of the Defence’s case & the Examination of the Defence’s witness(es) – the main purpose for this is for the Prosecution to produce and present the evidence that they feel supports and proves the allegations made against you and that show how you’ve committed the offence.
What happens when it is your turn to give evidence?
- The first stage is the Examination-in-Chief: Assuming that you’ve chosen to give evidence, you’ll be the first person to give evidence as part of your defence. You can ask the Judge for some time before you begin your case to think about what you want to say in your defence. You can then begin by giving a summary of the reasons why you’re not guilty and to give your version of what happened and how it explains why you are responsible for the offence taking place. This is the “Examination-in-Chief of the Accused” and is an opportunity for you to present your version of the events in relation to the offence and allegations against you.
- The second stage is the Cross-Examination: The Prosecution will then ask you questions to cross-examine you. The Prosecution can also produce the written interview statements recorded from you by the investigators during the investigations. If you feel that these statements shouldn’t be presented as evidence for the trial (e.g. if you feel that they are inaccurate because you only made them after you were forced, threatened or bullied into making them), a separate hearing will be conducted the Judge to hear your reasons and arguments why the statements should not be presented and included as evidence at the trial. In any case, you should remember even if the statements are presented and included as evidence by the Prosecution against your wishes, you can argue that the Judge should give very little weight to them (e.g. by showing that the contents are inaccurate and unreliable).
- The third stage is Re-Examination: After the cross-examination, you’ll be allowed to clarify what you said in response to the Prosecutor.
What happens when it is your defence witnesses’ turn to give evidence?
When you’ve finished giving your evidence, you can then call your other witnesses to the stand one by one.
- The first stage is the Examination-in-Chief: This is where you ask your witness questions which you feel can help you and support your defence and explanations or weaken the prosecution’s case. However, you should only ask questions that the witness is able to answer, and the witness should only testify to relevant facts within his personal knowledge. The questions you ask your own witnesses should be open-ended questions. This means that the questions asked must not suggest the actual answer or lead or the witness to the answer you want.
You should remember that you cannot ask your witness:
- His views of the evidence of other witnesses
- His opinions (unless he is an expert witness)
- His comments on the law
- What the intentions, thoughts and views of another person were
Your defence witness should only give evidence or relevant facts that are within his personal knowledge.
- The second stage is Cross-Examination: Once you’re done asking your witnesses questions, the Prosecution will then cross-examine your witnesses. The Prosecution can ask leading questions to challenge their evidence during cross-examination.
- The third stage is Re-Examination: After your witness has been cross-examined by the Prosecution, you’ll be able to re-examine your witnesses to clarify what your witnesses said in cross-examination. You can ask the witness questions to explain or contradict matters put to him by the Prosecution which he might have been unable to clarify during the cross-examination itself.
You should remember the following during Re-Examination:
- Re-examination is not another opportunity for you to raise new evidence
- Re-examination must only be used to explain or clarify matters referred to in cross-examination
- You should ask open-ended questions, instead of putting your version to the witness and asking him to agree or disagree
So, there you have it, some basic information on what happens in a Criminal Trial during the Defence’s case.