In recent news out of Miami, George Zimmerman will not face domestic abuse charges because the woman whom he was alleged to have assaulted has decided not to cooperate with the police. According to a report by ActionNewsJAX.com, Zimmerman’s ex-girlfriend submitted a sworn statement explaining that she no longer wished to pursue criminal charges against Zimmerman.
The charges stemmed from an incident in November of this year where Zimmerman’s ex-girlfriend called 911 claiming that Zimmerman had pointed a shotgun at her face. One week later she recanted that story. Without her cooperation, police have little evidence to move forward with and have decided to drop the case.
Witness Recantation in Criminal Cases
Many convictions are based almost exclusively on one witness’s testimony. Most commonly, these are crimes that have only one victim and take place behind closed doors, such as those crimes relating to domestic assault or battery, and sexual offenses.
But sometimes a witness will tell police one thing in a written statement and then take it back during subsequent interviews with police or prosecutors. This is called a witness recantation.
Witness’s statements, even if recanted, can sometimes be admitted at trial and may even be used to convict a defendant. For example, in a domestic battery case the battered spouse may call the police at the time of the accident and give one story. Then, after forgiving the other spouse, they may tell police or the prosecutor that the incident was fabricated. In this case, the prosecution may be able to admit the initial call to police as evidence that the crime was, in fact, committed.
With that said, the usefulness of a recanted statement in a criminal prosecution is of dubious value. This is especially the case if the defendant can get that witness to testify that the initial report was indeed fabricated and can explain a good reason as to why that was the case.
Witness Intimidation in Criminal Trials
With so much to benefit from getting a witness’s statement recanted, sometimes defendants will “encourage” a witness to recant. This is a form of witness intimidation, however, and will generally result in a new criminal charge. Even if the request is not coercive in nature, it can still be considered to be witness intimidation. For that reason, it is best for a defendant not to make any contact directly with any person who may become a witness in his or her case. Contact can be made through the defendant’s lawyer, however.
Have You Been Charged with a Crime in Florida?
If you have been charged with a crime in or around the Jacksonville area, you should seek the counsel of an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney immediately. As shown above, it is possible for an unknowing and good-intentioned person to run afoul of the witness intimidation laws. Your lawyer can help prevent you from making these costly mistakes. The Forbess Law Firm is a preeminent Jacksonville criminal defense firm with the passion and dedication needed to defend you against any criminal charge. Contact the Forbess Law Firm online, or by phone at 904-634-0900 to speak to an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney.
See More Blog Posts:
Florida State Quarterback Jameis Winston Will Not Face Sexual Assault Charges, Jacksonville Criminal Attorney Blog, December 5, 2013.
Hollywood Police Officer Charged with DWI, Jacksonville Criminal Attorney Blog, November 12, 2013.