The question, ‘Should a criminal defendant testify?’ has brought up numerous debates on how it alters the trajectory of criminal cases in courts. Some insist that it is not a good idea, while others believe it is excellent. Though accused of a crime, a criminal defendant has the right to either testify or not in a case. Should a defendant refuse to testify, it will not be held against them and cannot be used as an inference of guilt. However, the fact that a defendant can testify does not always make it a viable idea.
However, getting a little information about criminal cases can help many change their minds on this issue.
Criminal Defendants are Innocent until Proven Guilty
All criminal defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty. As simple as the statement is, the prosecution has to prove that a criminal is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. Proving guilt involves calling witnesses to testify against the criminal defendant. In most cases, the defendant’s testimony adds very little ‘power’ to prove the defendant’s guilt.
The Defendant’s Testimony can be Detrimental
Criminal defense lawyers often advise their clients against testifying in court. This is so because the defendants may bring up evidence that might go against them in some cases. Once a defendant agrees to testify, they open themselves up to having prior bad deeds used as evidence against them. The jury may take up these misdeeds, which might be unrelated to the crime, to conclude that the defendant committed the crime in question.
A defendant has the right not to testify
Indeed, according to many state laws, the defendant reserves the right not to testify. The defendant’s choice not to testify cannot be held against them in any court of law, and the jury cannot use it to infer that the defendant is guilty. The defendant remains innocent until proven guilty, even when they refuse to testify.
Why a Defendant Should Not Testify
A criminal trial can be highly stressful, with so much being investigated in detail. Many defendants fail to handle the stress well and end up agitated or nervous. Even when they are not guilty, the jury might wrongfully interpret their body language as signs of guilt and further use them in their verdict. Criminal defendants always have little to no experience in testifying, unlike the police, who are trained to do so. Cross-examination is often a difficult situation, especially where a zealous prosecutor has undergone training to draw out information from criminal defendants.
The idea of criminal defendants testifying is not a walk in the park. The guidance of their attorneys plays a vital role in determining whether they should testify or not. However, the defendant has the right to decide whether to testify or not. In most cases, defendants should refrain from testifying in court as it has the potential to bring up issues and new evidence against them, putting them at a higher risk of losing the case. With all these in mind, should a criminal defendant testify?