Prosecutors routinely rehearse a police officers testimony before the trail. Is this ethical? Explain

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

As far as I am concerned, this is ethical so long as the rehearsal does not extend to encouraging the police officer to say anything that is not true.

In our adversarial process, it is the responsibility of each side to try to win every case.  The prosecutors are not supposed to bring cases unless they think the defendant is guilty.  So long as they think the defendant is guilty, they have the duty to try to convict him or her.  As long as they do not do anything illegal, they must try as hard as they can to accomplish this.

Coaching the witness is not really a problem given this system.  The prosecutors want to win and therefore want their witnesses to tell the truth, but to do so in a way that will be most helpful to their case.  It is up to the defense to try to find ways to get the witnesses to admit to certain doubts or to give other testimony that helps the defense.

So as long as the rehearsal is only about telling the truth in the way that most helps the prosecution, this is ethical.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

The term 'rehearsing' used in the question sounds rather mischievous. In reality this term can be used for any advice given to the witness for influencing the response and behavior of the witness during the actual trial. Whether or not such actions are ethical or legal will depend on the extent to which these aim to prepare the witness to give honest or dishonest testimony. The opposing attorneys try to establish facts from the witness or discredit their testimony to suit their case. To the extent, the purpose of the pre-consultation of an attorney with the witnesses are aimed at helping the witness presenting the truth before the judge, and in preventing the opposing attorney from either discrediting them, or obtaining some misleading testimony from them by putting psychological pressure on them.

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