Mort SmithPlaying Hide and Go Seek WithWitnesses
What do you do when a witness purposely avoids your investigator?
Locating witnesses is one of the mostdifficult tasks given to investigators. The best time to locate a witness is when thewitness you seek is unaware he/she is being sought. Their guard is down andthey are less suspicious of strangers atthe front door. After there has been aninterview with your investigator andrealize that they may have involvedthemselves in a situation beyond whattheir comfort level would allow, they doall they can to avoid you. The questionis why. Why do witnesses who talk toyou one day avoid you the next? I donot know all the answers to that question but I do have somethoughts.
The Fear of Public Speaking
One of the things people fear most is public speaking. People have alegitimate fear of being in front of anaudience and having to answer questions being fired at them by two sets of attorneys and sometimes, depending onthe courtroom, a judge. With that, evenfriendly witnesses have a hard time withthe thought of testifying publicly in opencourt. I have found in my experiencethat often the hardest witnesses to locatearound trial time is the friendly witness(the witness you popped in onunexpectedly, interviewed and receiveda statement and/or affidavit). Now whyis that?One reason is that we tend to treatfriendly witnesses like cheap dates. Wewoo them into giving us what we want(statements, affidavits, ext), and whenwe get what we want they do not hear from us anymore until we need themagain. It is during that period of timethat the most damage occurs to thatwitness. They tell friends and familymembers and sometimes the prosecutionthat they spoke to a defense investigator and gave him/her a statement.
Caution from Friends and Family
How many times has your investigator reported to you that he/she justinterviewed a witness and that witnesswill be great for the case. They reportthat the witness is friendly, believableand said they are willing to come tocourt. Then, when you go with your investigator to meet and prep thewitness, you find they are no longer willing to talk to your investigator. Youand your investigator make several tripsto that witnesses home and each timeyou are told they are not around and/or they no longer want to be involved in thecase.One reason for this abrupt change inheart is the witness confided in their friends and family that they talked toyour investigator. Their friends andfamily members scolded them tellingthem that they should never have donethat! That they should not get involved;that their life could be in danger! They