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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Cross-Examining Court-Appointed Witnesses

Photo of a female attorney questioning a court-appointed witness
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

A witness called by the court may be freely cross-examined and impeached by any party.2 A court is necessarily cautious of exercising that power, especially in calling a witness that neither party wants to call as its own.

An appellate should not interfere with the district court's discretion in calling a witness (particularly one that neither party wants to call on its own), unless there is a clear showing of an abuse of discretion, resulting in prejudice to the defendant.3

2Litsinger v. U.S., 44 F.2d 45 (C.C.A. 7th Cir. 1930).

3Smith v. U.S., 331 F.2d 265 (8th Cir. 1964).

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