How Helpful are Alibi Witnesses in a Criminal Trial?

Posted by Mark Hauser

You have seen and heard it often in movies, television, and in real life:  the defendant couldn’t have done the crime because he was not there and he has alibi witnesses as proof.  Well, how persuasive are alibi witnesses in a criminal cases?  The first thing to remember is that alibi witnesses is just one piece of evidence of possibly several pieces of evidence.  So, unless it is the most convincing alibi ever, it is just one factor for the judge or jury to consider.   Hence, how strong or weak the case against the defendant affects how helpful an alibi witness can be in getting the defendant acquitted.

Second, of course, is how convincing is/are the alibi witness(es)?  Unfortunately, most alibi witness can appear to be bias since they are usually family, friends, or spouses of the defendant.  After all, those are the people whom a person is usually with most of the time.  Obviously, any witnesses that are not close to the defendant are better witnesses than people close to him.  A mother taking the stand and saying that her 21 year old son was home watching TV or sleeping is the not most persuasive alibi witness in the world (even if it is true).  Many mothers (and the like) would lie so that their son wouldn’t get convicted of a serious crime and be sent to jail.  An employer can be an excellent alibi witness especially if several people saw him at work and he punched a time clock.  However, under the table construction type jobs with his uncle are not.  Therefore, not surprisingly, the answer is:  it all depends.

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