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September 14, 2011

Admissibility Of Bad Reputation Evidence In Criminal Cases

By Michael H. Joseph

As a Westchester criminal defense attorney we have defended numerous cases in which a low life makes a bogus criminal complaint against an innocent person. in defending these cases, we often hear that everyone knows the complaining witness is a liar or a junkie or has some other character flaws that calls into question their credibility. Our New Y York criminal defense lawyers know important character evidence can be to a jury. Unfortunately all to often, the New York criminal courts try to keep out character evidence of the complaining witness. This type of evidence is especially important where there are already motives to lie, such as in sex crime, domestic violence or assault cases.

In a recent New York Court of Appeals held that the County Court improperly deprived defendant of his right to present testimony that complainant had a bad reputation in the community for truth and veracity. The Court recognized that party has a right to call a witness to testify that a key opposing witness, who gave substantive evidence and was not called for purposes of impeachment, has a bad reputation in the community for truth and veracity. The Court went on to recognize that a “trial court must allow such testimony, once a proper foundation has been laid, so long as it is relevant to contradict the testimony of a key witness and is limited to general reputation for truth and veracity and that the rule is to ensure that the jury is afforded a full picture of the witnesses presented, allowing it to give the proper weight to the testimony of such witnesses. Once the party seeking admission of reputation evidence has laid the proper foundation, it is for the jury to evaluate the credibility of the character witnesses who testify, and to decide how much weight to give the views reported in their testimony.

Our New York and White Plains criminal defense attorneys hope this new ruling will assist us in fighting bogus and questionable criminal accusations.

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