In many Arizona criminal cases, the issue of witness credibility is key. This is because, by and large, most cases present two sides of the same story. Whichever side the judge or jury believes is generally the side that prevails at trial.
Whether it be the testimony of a complaining witness, the arresting or investigating police officer, or the defendant himself, the importance of establishing that a witness is being truthful is crucial to the side calling that witness. On the flip side of the coin, the opposing side will often attempt to establish that an adverse witness is biased, untruthful, or somehow mistaken about their remembrance of the facts. This is most often done through cross-examination.
When a witness testified, he or she will first be asked questions by the party calling that witness. This is called the direct-examination of a witness. After that party concludes their questioning, the opposing side will then have an opportunity to ask questions of the witness through cross-examination. A skillful cross-examination can highlight problems with a witness’ testimony, casting doubt on that witness’ credibility.