Who should take the stand first? Part 2

 Posted By: je froilan m. clerigo
13-Nov-2007

In presenting witnesses, there are those who say that witnesses should be presented so that they tell the story in a chronological way: the first witness testifies on what happened first, the second on what happened next, and so on.

There are also those who say that witnesses should be presented in such a way that they corroborate each other; in other words, the second witness builds his testimony on that of the first, and the third on the second, and so on.

These methods may be applicable if the witnesses are equal in importance and can be compartmentalized in their testimonies. But this is not often the case. In every case, there is always that witness whose testimony is more important than the others. We have seen this during the
Erap impeachment and plunder trials, where the most important witness is obviously Chavit Singson. During the Hubert Webb murder trial, the star witness was Jessica Alfaro.

The most important witness is that witness on whom the whole case literally hangs in the balance. Some call this witness the Star Witness, the witness on whom will depend the rise and fall of the case.

And the thing is, the opposing attorneys know who is your most important witness, so that most of their preparation is focused on destroying or discrediting him or her, just as you yourself are aware of - and preparing to destroy or discredit - the most important witness for the other side as well.

The dilemma is that, in most cases, this most important witness is also the least credible, and most vulnerable to attack, among your witnesses. So that, if you adopt the methods above and present the most important witness ahead of the others, some parts of your case may not be believed if he or she is successfully impeached or discredited. And you may not recover from the damage through other witnesses.

Not only should we think of the story, therefore, we should also think of the witnesses who will tell that part of the story. Part 3 will discuss a specific example of organizing the order of witnesses.