Police Officer vs Professional Witness
Criminal lawyers must be certain to strike potential jurors that may give extra creditability to officers based on their employment. A police officer cannot be trusted simply because he wears a uniform and jurors are instructed not to give officers testimony more weight due to this fact alone. I have pointed out on several occasions the importance of weeding out individuals who have an inherent trust of officers early on in the jury selection process. I have further stressed the importance of educating potential jurors in getting to think about the fact that beneath the uniform police officers are ordinary people just like you and I. This is where most defense attorneys stop their line of questioning or end their closing on this issue. To do so, however, ignores the fact that in reality police officers are paid, biased, and professional witnesses focused on obtaining a conviction according to Florida Criminal Lawyer William Moore
A police officer’s duty entails seeking out crime, locating the individuals that have committed it and making an arrest. The business of ferreting out wrongdoers is alive and well and is rewarded not only by money and promotions but also by the respect and “high- fives” of other officers.
Florida Criminal Lawyer William Moore Warns About the Importance of Instructing Jurors About Police Officers and Their Perceived Credibility.
The other side of a law enforcement officer’s job is that of testifying in court against the individuals they arrest. Police officers are in court all the time; they testify at motions to suppress and jury trials constantly and the longer an officer has been on the force, the more comfortable he is in trial in front of a jury telling his story. The amount of times an officer has testified before a jury should always be drawn out on cross-examination. It should be pointed out that officers are trained to look at the jury when they testify as this type of behavior builds creditability. At some point during the jury selection process I ask the presumptive panel if anyone was nervous when they came into court. More often than not, presumptive jurors will admit that they are nervous, as public speaking is a great fear for most people. It is best to use this opportunity to get the jurors to relate to your client, especially if they are to testify on their own behalf. In most cases, it is not only your client’s first time in court, but also that of that of the presumptive jurors. Pointing out that your client may testify and that in doing so they may be nervous, gives the potential jury the opportunity to relate in that many of them have the same fears. Jurors should always be taught to draw the distinction between a person that is unfamiliar with the court system such as your client, and a professional witness such as a law enforcement officer testifying against them.
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