If witness accounts play a crucial role in a criminal case, then those accounts must be carefully scrutinized. Witness testimony is not always reliable because people often remember events inaccurately and let preconceptions cloud judgment. Witnesses may also be susceptible to pressures from prosecutors and police, and any accused individual should have a criminal defense strategy to counter the prosecution’s claims.

With these issues in mind, consider the recent acquittal of a New Jersey man who was charged with armed robbery. The 66-year-old cancer patient was accused of going into a bank, simulating the use of a gun and demanding cash. A bank teller claimed the man asked for money a number of times, but the first request was inaudible because the man mumbled. A bank security guard also testified that he heard the man ask for more money after some cash had been placed by the teller on the front counter.

However, the teller also testified that the man had mumbled, and his first statement to the teller was inaudible. This communication breakdown was a noted aspect of the man’s defense.

The defendant also testified that he was at the bank to set up direct deposit for his Social Security payments, and paperwork for that set-up was in the man’s pocket on the day in question. The defendant said he was reaching for that paperwork and not a gun. In fact, there was no gun linked to the incident.

After reviewing video footage from the bank, the jury decided to acquit the defendant.

The case, which you can read more about in The Trentonian, is a reminder of the importance of cross-examining witnesses to ensure that inaccurate testimony doesn’t lead to a conviction.