What does it mean “to turn state’s evidence?”

December 4, 2016 | Author: | Posted in Legal

In American legal language evidence for the government, people or state in criminal prosecutions is called state’s evidence. In English law evidence for the Crown is called King’s (or Queen’s) evidence. These terms are applied more particularly to evidence voluntarily given by an accessory in a crime who confesses his part and who testifies against his accomplices. When a person implicated in a crime voluntarily confesses his share in the illegal act and gives testimony tending to incriminate his associates he is said to turn state’s evidence; that is, he becomes a witness for the prosecution and consequently for the state or government. In such cases there is often an express or implied promise on the part. of the authorities that they will not prosecute the witness who thus testifies, or that they will at least deal leniently with him. It is not customary for prosecutors to promise such immunity unless there is insufficient evidence to convict a defendant without the testimony so obtained. But a person who has committed a crime or who has been an accomplice in an illegal act has no legal claim to clemency merely because he “turns state’s evidence.” Occasionally a guilty person who has not received either an express or implied promise of leniency will turn state’s evidence. In this case he hopes that testifying for the government will result in a pardon even if he is convicted. In popular language state’s evidence is sometimes loosely applied to the person who turns state’s evidence.

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