Criminal trials in Michigan will always involve evidence, some of which will come in via witnesses. Defendants have the right to cross examine these witnesses. This right means that a defendant, usually through her attorney, can question and often discredit a witness. There are many ways to cross examine a prosecution witness. This might include using the witness testimony from the preliminary examination and comparing it to their trial testimony. Any inconsistencies, particularly on critical issues, may lead the judge or jury to give less or even no weight to the offered testimony. This is a subtle skill, one that lawyers take many years to perfect. It is most effective after an attorney has had an opportunity to cross examine hundreds or even thousands of witnesses in trial, deposition, preliminary examination and other sworn testimony settings.
Likewise, if the defense puts forth any witnesses, the prosecution may cross examine them. The same techniques apply, with the prosecutor looking for differences from prior statements to challenge testimony from the defense witnesses. Proper preparation by the defense attorney is key to help combat the weaknesses in the defense testimony that the prosecution will likely attempt to exploit. Sometimes the defense attorney will elicit seemingly negative aspects of a defense witness' testimony. This way, the prosecution cannot get the "ah hah!" moment when the witness is confronted with something that appears negative for the defense. If the fact comes out voluntarily through the defense attorney's questioning on direct exam, the jury will not view it as damaging to the defense.
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