I'm interested in how certain trials work in US Law, particularly when it comes to Character Witnesses.

How do defence teams go about selecting character witnesses, in particular when it comes to murder trials? For example, Carol Ann Boone being a character witness for Ted Bundy, she was surely biased and therefore should she not have been dismissed as a witness?

In this stream, does that mean that family members/friends/lovers are instantly ruled out when submitting character witness, due to ingrained biases?

Also, if chosen as a character witness what background would be required? For example, could someone impaired mentally be able to (through mental health conditions or addiction)?

Apologies if this has been answered already.

1 Answer 1


Character Witness offer one of three types of formats (I'm offering examples for a broad ideas of character witness statements).

  • Opinion (circumstantial) - "I do not think Johnny would harm a puppy."
  • Reputational Evidence (circumstantial) - "Well, the whole office knew Johnny loved puppies"
  • Evidence of Conduct (factual) - "Johnny would volunteer at the human I worked at weekly and would request dogs that were abused because he believed that they were victims of a 'Special Kind of Evil'."

Character Witnesses may only be introduced by the defense, never the prosecution. The prosecution is only allowed to introduce character evidence if the defense first offers the evidence. Furthermore, the evidence must be related to the crime charged, so while my examples would be great if Johnny is charged with animal abuse, there is some leg work to make those same statements work in a murder trial (not that they can't... if Johnny thinks animal abuse is horrible, how could he murder a person? Of course, if we can prove the victim was an animal abuser, it actually could look like Johnny would hurt some one over the matter of abusing animals). Note two that the evidence that is circumstantial is not as good as factual evidence. Johnny's mother may say he wouldn't hurt a person, but Johnny's volenteer record speaks louder.

The Defense can also introduce character evidence against the victim of a crime, but the evidence must be factual. This especially true in sexual crimes as opinions and reputational evidence is not admissiable. A defendant could show evidence of specific instances where the victim did make advances OR show that genetic evidence found on the victim is from another person to hint a promiscuous nature. However, Pam the office Gossip, can't testify that Lana is well known to be the office slut.

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