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Criminal procedure

witness testimony

There are generally two types of witnesses whose testimony may be admissible in evidence in a criminal trial: (1) fact witnesses who have personal knowledge of facts relevant to the prosecution or defense of the pending criminal charge; and (2) expert witnesses, who have expert knowledge that may assist the jury in determining a fact issue.

Relevant evidence—including witness testimony—is generally admissible, but the court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.

A two-part test generally governs whether expert testimony is admissible: (1) the expert must be qualified (must be an expert on the subject) and (2) the testimony must be relevant and be based on a reliable foundation. The judge makes the initial determination about whether the expert and the expert’s testimony meet these requirements. The judge has broad discretion to determine the admissibility of expert testimony, and the judge’s decision to admit or exclude the expert testimony evidence will generally only be reversed on appeal if there is an abuse of the judge’s discretion.

In Texas, witness testimony in criminal trials can be broadly categorized into two types: fact witnesses and expert witnesses. Fact witnesses provide testimony based on their personal knowledge of the events related to the case, while expert witnesses offer opinions based on their specialized knowledge that can help the jury understand complex issues. The admissibility of evidence, including witness testimony, hinges on its relevance and whether it aids in ascertaining the truth without causing undue prejudice or confusion. However, even relevant evidence may be excluded if it poses a significant risk of unfair prejudice, confuses the issues, misleads the jury, causes undue delay, or is needlessly repetitive. Expert testimony specifically must pass a two-part test to be admitted: the expert must be qualified in the relevant field, and their testimony must be relevant, reliable, and based on a solid foundation. The presiding judge has considerable discretion in determining the admissibility of expert testimony, and an appellate court will typically only overturn such decisions if there is evidence of an abuse of discretion by the judge.

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