This is a list of the impeachment wrecking crew:

      1. Unreliability of the Observation

      2. Faulty Report

      3. Unbelievable Reporter

This post is dedicated to the Unreliability of the Observation Wrecking Crew. Specifically, how the mental and sensory deficiencies of a witness may be used to impeach the witness’s testimony. Here, the demonstration involves a child witness.

In 1984 Virginia McMartin, founder of McMartin Preschool and grandson Ray Buckey were charged with 321 counts of child abuse.  Children said they played the “naked movie star” game, went through tunnels and other weird activities. The children were interviewed by an abuse therapy clinic using highly suggestive techniques.

There were 20 months of preliminary hearings. In 1986 a new District Attorney dropped charges against all but Ray and Peggy Buckey. In 1990, after a three-year trial Peggy Buckey was acquitted and Ray Buckey was acquitted of 52 of 65 counts.  Retrial resulted in hung jury and Ray Buckey was eventually acquitted. It took seven years, cost $15 million, and resulted in no convictions. The case was made into a movie—Indictment.

Watch the defense lawyer’s cross-examination of a child witness that centers on the unreliability of the testimony because the child had been influenced by a therapy clinic that made suggestions to the child, and as you watch think about the techniques that should be utilized during an impeachment cross. Those techniques are: 

1. Assess the witness and adjust your approach;

2. Lock the witness into the testimony before you impeach;

3. Close all the exits to prevent the witness from escaping;

4. Establish a motive for the witness to prevaricate;

5. Paint a picture for the jury;

6. Surprise the witness; and

7. Use visuals or tangible evidence if possible.

Note how the cross-examiner assessed the witness and determine that the child witness was mistaken—adjusted accordingly so as to discredit the testimony and not the child, and used a gentle demeanor and tone.