Immigration, and particularly the issue of undocumented individuals, is very much a “hot button” issue these days. That is even true in civil and criminal trials, where a party in the case may seek to make an issue of a witness’s immigration status in order to diminish the witness in the eyes of the jury. Sometimes, Maryland law says that you can’t bring up a witness’s immigration status as a means of attacking that witness’s credibility (which is something the law calls “impeaching a witness”). In some specific circumstances, though, you may be able to use a prosecution witness’s immigration status against her in order to make her less believable in the eyes of the jury. As always, it helps to have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side who knows all the “ins and outs” and nuances of the law, and how to use them to maximum advantage in your defense.
A recent case involving an undocumented witness provides some useful knowledge about how this process works. In the case, the state put T.K. on trial for murder. T.K. was a man who resided on the street where the shooting occurred. One the state’s key witnesses was M.L., a 15-year-old boy and a neighbor of T.K., who allegedly saw the accused shoot the victim. Another prosecution witness was M.L.’s mother, who allegedly saw T.K. running away from the scene of the shooting with a gun in his hand.
M.L. and his mother, however, were undocumented immigrants. The defense wanted to use that information to attempt to persuade the jury that the boy and his mother were not always honest and therefore not trustworthy. The trial judge didn’t allow the line of questioning and the jury convicted T.K. The Court of Special Appeals upheld that ruling on appeal.