Impeachment | Problem 1

Defendant is on trial for armed robbery. The prosecution calls Witness who testifies that she was standing about 100 feet away from the robbery when she observed the robbery while wearing her Prada sunglasses. On cross-examination, Defendants lawyer asks Witness if it isnt true that she was wearing her Versace sunglasses, not her Prada sunglasses at the time.

Is this form of impeachment permissible, and if so, why type of impeachment is it?

Defendant is seeking to impeach Witness with a contradictory fact, otherwise known as impeachment by contradiction. Evidence law permits this type of impeachment because a witnesss factual errors tend to undermine the credibility of the factual witness, which is obviously important at trials, which exist to adjudicate disputed facts.

But the cross-examiner cannot suggest a contradictory fact unless she has a good-faith belief that the contradictory fact exists. As always, the scope of cross must be limited to direct and the contradiction may not be proved up by the use of extrinsic evidence since the brand of sunglasses worn is a collateral issue.