New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

When can You Bring in Rebuttal Witness in a Trial

Posted on Oct 25, 2014 in Personal Injury FAQs

After the defense has presented all of its witnesses in a trial, it is up to the prosecution to decide whether or not they would like to call in rebuttal witnesses. The use of rebuttal witnesses rests on the discretion of the trial judge. And though they can be useful in punching holes in the defendant’s theory of the case, a rebuttal witness is not a chance for the prosecution to present its entire case again. The use of rebuttal witnesses is mainly done in order to contradict or refute evidence that the defense has offered to the court during its presentation.

Rebuttal Witness

Not every lawyer can play the rebuttal witness card effectively. Do not assume it can be done. 

Why go for a Rebuttal?

During the course of the trial, there will be times when the prosecution is stopped from presenting evidence or discussing key issues. The prosecution’s experts too may be prevented from talking about these aspects of the trial. Now, during the defense’s presentation they too are required to put experts on the stand who would provide evidence to support the defense’s theory of the case.

Let’s say that the defense’s experts end up talking about the same issues and trial aspects that the prosecution was disallowed to discuss earlier on. The prosecution can then ask the trial judge for permission to bring in rebuttal witnesses to contradict the arguments presented by the defense. And since it is the defense lawyers who themselves have brokered conversation on the taboo topics, the judge in all probability will allow the prosecution to bring in their experts for a rebuttal.

A Prosecution’s Response

The integral aspect to note here is that the use of rebuttal witnesses depends entirely on the foundation laid by the defense. Also, unless the defense has presented any evidence which the prosecution’s rebuttal witnesses can contradict and prove to be untrue, there is no point in asking for a rebuttal session. For instance, if the defense presents evidence about the defendant’s alibi, the prosecution may call a rebuttal witness to contradict or refute this evidence.

Like the other aspects of the trail, the rebuttal session too is dependent on the defense’s theory of the case. A trial judge will grant the prosecution permission to call in rebuttal witnesses only after deciding that the defense’s presentation leaves room for contradictions.

Keep it Short and Aim for the Kill

A rebuttal session is generally very quick, so it is important to focus only on the most important aspects of the trial. Defense lawyers are generally very eager to ensure that no new topics are introduced during the rebuttal session. Once the prosecution has presented their contrary evidence in the rebuttal session, the defense is allowed to cross examine the witness and they can even ask for a surrebuttal to disprove the rebuttal witness’ evidence. But in practice, this very rarely happens.

A rebuttal witness is a card that experienced attorneys play only to win and not every case needs a rebuttal for victory. So, do not worry if your attorney does not plan for a rebuttal, but in case he does, make sure that the rebuttal session discredits the defense’s theory completely and ensures your victory.


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