Prior Statements made by a witness
During trial, impeaching witnesses on prior inconsistent statements is a common and effective method to show that the witness doesn’t remember, is confused, or is straight out lying. However, in order to introduce prior inconsistent statements, the proper foundation must be laid.
Before a witness can be questioned about the prior inconsistent statement, the attorney must first bring to the attention of the witness the prior inconsistent statement. The attorney must commit that witness to a time, place, and person to whom the statement was made. Depending on the witness’s answer regarding their prior inconsistent statements, the rules of evidence allow for specific follow- up questions, or no follow-up questions.
For example, if the witness admits to making the prior statement that is inconsistent with the current testimony, then the inquiry stops. In other words, the attorney successfully impeached the witness by having them admit that they made a prior statement that is inconsistent with their instant testimony. However, if they deny making the prior statements, then extrinsic evidence is admissible to prove the making of the statements.
Moreover, consider a specific example: let’s assume the witness wrote a statement that said she couldn’t see the shooter. Then at trial, the witness states that she could see the shooter and it was the Defendant. Then, the Defense Counsel may ask the witness whether she remembers making the prior statements regarding whether she could see the shooter. If the witness states that she never made that statement, then the Defense Counsel could introduce the prior statements she made to show that she previously said she couldn’t see the shooter.
Where the witness does not specifically admit or deny the prior statements, the Florida Rules still favor the admission of the extrinsic evidence to show that the statement was made. See Section 90.614(2).