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TOPIC: Evidence Of Character And Conduct Of A Witness
Evidence Of Character And Conduct Of A Witness 8 Years, 8 Months ago Karma: 0  
What should attorneys be told about a potential witness? Anything that would prove a witness to be a liability rather than an asset needs to be disclosed. However, people make mistakes, and those people are often called upon to be witnesses in a trial. Can their past be introduced to challenge their veracity, or to discount them as a witness? Let's see what Rule 608 states.

Tennessee Rules of Evidence, Rule 608
(a) Opinion and Reputation Evidence of Character. The credibility of a witness may be attacked or supported by evidence in the form of opinion or reputation, but subject to these limitations: (1) the evidence may refer only to character for truthfulness or untruthfulness, and (2) evidence of truthful character is admissible only after the character of the witness for truthfulness has been attacked.

(b) Specific Instances of Conduct. Specific instances of conduct of a witness for the purpose of attacking or supporting the witness's credibility, other than convictions of crime as provided in Rule 609, may not be proved by extrinsic evidence. They may, however, if probative of truthfulness or untruthfulness and under the following conditions, be inquired into on cross-examination of the witness concerning the witness's character for truthfulness or untruthfulness or concerning the character for truthfulness or untruthfulness of another witness as to which the character witness being cross-examined has testified. The conditions which must be satisfied before allowing inquiry on cross-examination about such conduct probative solely of truthfulness or untruthfulness are:

(1) The court upon request must hold a hearing outside the jury's presence and must determine that the alleged conduct has probative value and that a reasonable factual basis exists for the inquiry;

(2) The conduct must have occurred no more than ten years before commencement of the action or prosecution, but evidence of a specific instance of conduct not qualifying under this paragraph (2) is admissible if the proponent gives to the adverse party sufficient advance notice of intent to use such evidence to provide the adverse party with a fair opportunity to contest the use of such evidence and the court determines in the interests of justice that the probative value of that evidence, supported by specific facts and circumstances, substantially outweighs its prejudicial effect; and

(3) If the witness to be impeached is the accused in a criminal prosecution, the State must give the accused reasonable written notice of the impeaching conduct before trial, and the court upon request must determine that the conduct's probative value on credibility outweighs its unfair prejudicial effect on the substantive issues. The court may rule on the admissibility of such proof prior to the trial but in any event shall rule prior to the testimony of the accused. If the court makes a final determination that such proof is admissible for impeachment purposes, the accused need not actually testify at the trial to later challenge the propriety of the determination.

The giving of testimony, whether by an accused or by any other witness, does not operate as a waiver of the witness's privilege against self-incrimination when examined with respect to matters which relate only to credibility.

(c) Juvenile Conduct. Evidence of specific instances of conduct of a witness committed while the witness was a juvenile is generally not admissible under this rule. The court may, however, allow evidence of such conduct of a witness other than the accused in a criminal case if the conduct would be admissible to attack the credibility of an adult and the court is satisfied that admission in evidence is necessary for a fair determination in a civil action or criminal proceeding.

The law office of Andrew Farmer is willing to help in this matter of law, or any other area of law. Call our office at (865) 428-6737 for a free consultation. We are here to help.
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