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Cross Examination As To Pending Charges Against A Witness

DFields@fishbeinpa.com,   Criminal Law   Leave a Comment

In criminal cases or in civil cases there is frequently a controversy as to whether a witness may be cross-examined as to alleged bias or motive with regard to pending criminal charges against the witness. In Manchame-Guerra v State of Maryland, 178 A.3d 1 (2018), the Court of Appeals of Maryland held that a Defendant in a criminal case was entitled to cross-exam the State’s witnesses as to alleged bias with regard to pending criminal charges against the witness under certain circumstances. Ordinarily such cross-examination is prohibited if there is no factual foundation for the question posed or if the probative value derived from pursuing the inquiry would be substantially out-weighed by the danger of undue prejudice or confusion. In Manchame-Guerra the Court of Special Appeals reversed a second degree murder conviction because the Defendant proffered at trial that the prosecution witness could have expected or hope for a better benefited connection with the pending charges against the witness in return for the witness’ testimony at the trial against the Defendant. The trial court refused to allow the questioning to be made by the Defendant’s attorney. The Court of Special Appeals reversed on the issue that proper cross examination included allowing the cross-examination of the State’s witness on the issue of pending charges which might disclose a motive or bias for testifying against the Defendant.

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