Maureen A. Howard, Liar! Liar! Impeaching a Witness on Cross-Examination, June 2010 De Novo 9 (2010), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/522
There are certain trial moments that can set an advocate’s heart a-flutter. One is the opportunity to show the jury that an adverse witness is not to be trusted. Even better is the chance to expose the witness to be a bald-faced liar.
Welcome to the wonderful world of impeachment. Impeachment is the art of discrediting the witness on cross-examination. There are seven impeachment techniques:
• Bias, interest, and motive
• Contradictory facts
• Prior convictions — FRE 609
• Prior bad acts — FRE 608 (b)
• Prior inconsistent statements — FRE 613
• Bad character for truthfulness — FRE 608 (a)
• Treatises — FRE 803 (18)
Impeachment is mostly governed by common law and requires a good-faith belief on the part of the advocate. The challenging attorney is also required to raise impeachment on cross-examination, giving a witness a chance to explain before introducing any extrinsic evidence. Although FRE 607 permits an attorney to impeach her own witness, the better course is to either clarify the question, or, using some other non-confrontational technique, re-examine the witness’s testimony.