Accused of Robbery, Acquitted by Jury
A man accused of robbery, defended by Tyler MacDonald, was found not guilty by a jury of his peers. The man’s accusers were a couple who claimed that the man had violently ambushed one of them and made off with valuable jewelry. At trial, the accused gave a very different account of what happened, and made clear that he did not attack anyone or steal anything.
In situations like this, the jury is faced with the task of assessing the credibility of the witnesses to determine what, if anything, will be believed of what each witness says. There is no magic formula to assessing a witness’ credibility, but jurors are often urged to use logic and common sense, and to not put too much weight on a witness’ demeanor while testifying (as their demeanor can be influenced by a host of unknowable factors). Juries have to also remember that the number of witnesses in a “he said-they said” situation doesn’t determine the outcome, especially if “they” had an opportunity to collude in fabricating their stories.
One of the most relied-upon indicators that a witness is not telling the full truth is when the witness gives inconsistent testimony or statements about the same event or same subject. When a person says one thing on one occasion, and then says the opposite on another occasion, it is logical that both statements cannot be the true (and perhaps neither are true). Whether the inconsistent statements are the result of making an innocent mistake, of having a poor memory, or of telling a deliberate lie is for the jury to decide based on an evaluation of all of the known circumstances in which the inconsistent statements were made.
In the course of cross-examination of both accusers, Mr. MacDonald demonstrated that each of them had contradicted themselves in relation to very simple and straightforward answers on important issues. Their testimonies before the jury on a key issue contradicted what they had said about that same issue under oath at a prior stage in the proceedings. An array of excuses were proffered for these contradictions, but none of them made sense. The nature and timing of the contradictions even suggested collusion between the two Crown witnesses.
Against this evidence, the accused testified as to his innocence of the charged crime. No person presents perfectly under the stress of testifying, but the accused was unshaken in stating what really happened that day, and his testimony was untainted by the level of contradiction which was apparent in the testimony of the Crown witnesses.
It took the jury less than one hour of deliberations to conduct their assessments of the credibility and reliability of the witnesses. Their verdict of Not Guilty was a great and visible relief to the accused.