The cooperating witness has many names: cooperator, informer, snitch, turncoat, benedict arnold, betrayer, etc. Many lawyers are afraid to confront the cooperating witness. A killer cross examination is necessary to undermine the reliability of the witness and at the same time, undermine the prosecution’s case.
A young lady referred to two local judges in a very derogatory fashion. I had a tape recording of a conversation in which she had made this reference — it was a reference that was unlikely to be uttered or heard in the middle of a drunk driving case, but it turns out that it was one of the elements of a killer cross examination that helped obtain an acquittal for our client. The case, one of the hardest that I have tried, involved the “switching seats” defense: the claim that our client (the passenger) switched seats with the driver during the traffic stop in an effort to throw off the police. The two were cousins. Our client claimed to have switched seats. When she was charged and prosecuted, she expected her cousin to come forward and tell the truth and free our client. It did not go down that way. Unfortunately, her cousin abandoned her. Worse, her cousin turned on her and actually attempted to testify that she was only the passenger and that our client was indeed the driver. The cousin was “cooperating with the prosecution.” A killer cross examination was needed. I delivered one.
This excerpt is a small part of the cross examination of the informant/cooperating witness in this case. I will reveal more excerpts over the succeeding days and weeks. Of course, you’re wondering how the derogatory reference became a part of a drunk driving trial? Well … The witness and our client had talked on the phone about the case. The phone call was tape recorded. At one point, the pair discussed their judges (the cousin had an MIP). The cousin stated that “they both sound like whores.” A killer cross examination involves the use of wit and positioning of witnesses and so we positioned the witness to use this offensive quote. I questioned her about respecting others and the Court. She stated that she respected everyone, especially the Court.
Do you think that referring to a judge as a “whore” is a sign of respect?
Read on for this and more of my cross examination of a cooperating witness in this case.