Legal Dictionary

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Vouching

In a criminal law context vouching refers of an act by an attorney or judge, usually in the presence of a jury, giving a guarantee, supporting a case or witness as being reliable and true. It is the jury who is the sole decision maker when it comes to the truthfulness of a witness and this type of vouching encroaches upon that function and thus is improper. Vouching can be both verbal and non-verbal and can present itself in many different ways, such as:

  • When a prosecutor states that the weight of the government, or the prosecutor himself, believes a witness or in the guilt of the defendant.
    • Examples include:
      • A prosecutor states that he would not have brought charges against the defendant unless he knew he was guilty.
      • Statements such as, "I would not bring a witness to come in here and lie to you." or "The Police Officer believed the witness."
  • When an attorney states that there was evidence, not presented, which supports a witness's testimony.
    • Examples include:
      • Statements such as, "You should have seen the evidence that was excluded in this case!" or "there were other witnesses to this crime that the Defendant and his Attorney's know of but were not presented."
  • When an attorney states personal facts about an issue.
    • Examples include:
      • An attorney doing an independent investigation himself, and relaying his findings to the jury.
  • Verbal and non-verbal actions which indicate to a jury how an attorney or judge feels about a particular witness or statements he or she is making.
    • Examples include:
      • Crying, the nodding or shaking of a head, eye rolling, slamming ones hand down on a table, kicking a chair or desk out of anger and open mockery such as laughing.
      • An attorney, during closing argument, states to the jury "I believe that my client is completely innocent of these charges."