What Is A Testimony? Importance Of A Witness’s Testimony

What is a testimony? In the context of a civil or criminal court case, a witness is a person who answers questions under oath during a deposition or a trial. The statements of each witness are his testimony, which is one type of evidence that is considered in reaching the ultimate decision about what happened.

What Is A Testimony?

Significantly, there are several types of witnesses, one of which includes expert witnesses with the rules regarding testimony depending on the type.

Eyewitness Testimony

The first type of witness is a fact witness. A fact witness testifies about what happened from their point of view. Fact witnesses should limit their testimony to their first-hand knowledge. This usually means what they observed or witnessed through one or more of their five senses and the recollections of their actions. They are also referred to an eye witness.

For example, one fact witness in a murder trial may testify that on the night in question, she saw the accused person enter the building, that a short time later she heard a fight and then a scream, and that finally, she saw the accused run from the building and hurry off down the street after he had arrived.  

A police officer can also act as a fact witness, testifying about what they saw and smelled when entering the apartment and finding the dead body. Their testimony might also include that he took the photographs at the same address that evening and wrote the report that was officially filed by the police.

Sometimes fact witnesses are called simply to authenticate one or more documents so that they can be entered as evidence.

Opinions And Expert Testimony

A lay witness is a non-expert who provides an opinion. Non-experts may only offer the court an opinion that is rationally based on the witness’s perception; helpful to clearly understand the witness’s testimony or to determining a fact in an issue; and not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge.

An expert witness is a special type of person that is called to provide expert witness testimony. For example, a DNA expert might be called to testify about skin cells found under the victim’s fingernails that link the accused to the crime with a very high probability. Most of the time, an expert witness will be an independent professional who has no connection to either of the parties or the facts of the specific case. Unlike the fact witnesses, an expert witness is generally paid for his work, including for time spent at the trial to give his testimony.

Before a witness can provide any expert testimony, he must first be accepted by the judge as qualified by way of his knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.

Final Thoughts

In law, testimony is a type of evidence obtained from a witness who makes an unequivocal statement or declaration of fact. Oral or written testimony can be given, and it is usually given under oath or affirmation under penalty of perjury. Written testimony is usually witnessed by one or more people who swear or affirm its authenticity under penalty of perjury in order to be admissible in court and to have maximum reliability and validity.

Unless a witness is testifying as an expert witness, testimony in the form of opinions or inferences is generally limited to those opinions or inferences that are rationally based on the witness’ perceptions and help to clarify the witness’ testimony.

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