Defense witnesses (Zimbabwe)

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It is obviously important to find out from potential defence witnesses what they actually know about the events in question. It is dangerous to rely upon what X or his relatives say that certain witnesses know and to subpoena such persons as witnesses based upon what you have been told they will say. Possible defence witnesses should be interviewed to see what they know about salient matters. They can be called if they can give testimony which is favourable to the defence case.

A problem may arise where the legal practitioner finds from interviewing a witness that the witness could provide valuable evidence for the defence, but the witness has indicated that he is unwilling or reluctant to give this testimony in court. If the testimony of the witness is vital to the defence, the defence may have to have the witness subpoenaed. In deciding whether to have a reluctant witness subpoenaed, the defence lawyer will have to consider what evidence he is likely to be able to extract from the reluctant witness in court and whether his testimony will do his client any good.

Unless X is a young child, witnesses should not be interviewed in the presence of X. If the witnesses are interviewed when X is present, a suggestion could then be made that the lawyer has collaborated with X in influencing the witness to testify along certain lines or to embellish his testimony in a manner which is favourable to the defence.

If the client has limited financial means, the defence lawyer can seek the assistance of the Registrar or the clerk of court in securing the attendance of the defence witnesses both for pre-trial interview and for the purposes of giving evidence in court.


See Zimbabwe Criminal Defense Manual