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Travis County Courts Expel Controversial Doctor

Thumbnail image for AdobeStock_80814322.jpegJudges and juries in the Austin area will not hear testimony from forensic examiner Dr. Sam Andrews until state officials finish investigating misconduct allegations against him.

Before he became Lubbock County's chief medical examiner, Dr. Andrews was an assistant in Travis County. According to a Lubbock County Commissioner, Dr. Andrews allegedly collected body tissue for research purposes from a dead child and allowed an unlicensed doctor to perform autopsies. In the ten Dr. Andrews homicides currently pending, judges will order another doctor to do a second autopsy.

Dr. Andrews already had a poor reputation in Travis County. In a previous murder case, he suddenly changed his opinion a day before he gave testimony in the case. The state had to drop the murder charges and settle for a misdemeanor assault conviction because of the flip-flop.

The Five Best Ways to Impeach a Witness

Prosecutors have the burden of proof at trial. So, eroding the state's case is often the best defense. Typically, that's the only defense an attorney presents. It is usually a bad idea for the defendant to testify. Testimony exposes the defendant to cross-examination and takes focus away from the other issues in the case.

There are basically five ways to attack the credibility of a derelict doctor or any other prosecution witness. Prosecutors have these same tools to attack defense witnesses.

Using a prior inconsistent statement is usually the best way to at least partially discredit a witness. Judges and juries generally hate it when people change their stories, especially if their stories change in a way that helps their causes.

Even out-of-court, off-the-cuff statements, like banter at a bar, are admissible for impeachment purposes. Although they are hearsay, they are not technically offered for the truth of the matter asserted. The jury simply needs to know that, at one point, the witness said something different.

If a witness gave a prior inconsistent statement during a hearing or under oath, that's even better. These statements have even more force and effect. That is one reason the DWI Administrative License Revocation hearing is so important.

Criminal convictions are also admissible for impeachment purposes. According to Texas law, people with criminal records are more likely to lie under oath. That presumption may or may not be true, but there it is.

This form of impeachment keeps many defendants off the witness stand. If they have any criminal record, prosecutors can use it against them. The judge carefully instructs jurors not to use these convictions to determine guilt or innocence. But people are people, and they do not always follow instructions to the letter.

Failure to wear prescription eyewear is an example of a sensory deficiency. Other people do not hear well or cannot see things at certain angles. The environment may cause a sensory deficiency as well. It's harder to see in the dark, harder to hear in a noisy place, and so on.

Bias is admissible for impeachment purposes. Normally, showing that a witness is biased against a certain person or people group is quite effective. But Texas law limits the types of evidence that a criminal defense attorney can use to establish bias. So, this technique is not as effective here as it is in some other states.

Finally, some people have a bad reputation. This technique is hit or miss. Sometimes, reputational evidence resonates with a juror, so it is very effective. Other times, the approach seems like a desperate and one-sided attempt to discredit a witness.

Chipping away at the prosecutor's case is often the best defense. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Parker County and nearby jurisdictions. 

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