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A witness is someone who has first hand knowledge about a crime or significant event through his or her senses (e.g. seeing, hearing, smelling, touching) and can help certify important considerations about the crime or event. A witness who has seen the event first hand is known as an eyewitness. Witnesses are often called before a court of law to testify in trials.

A subpoena commands a person to appear. It is used to compel the testimony of a witness in a trial. Usually, it can be issued by a judge or by the lawyer representing the plaintiff or the defendant in a civil trial or by the prosecutor or the defense attorney in a criminal proceeding. In many jurisdictions, it is compulsory to comply, to take an oath, and to tell the truth, under penalty of perjury.

A witness who specializes in an area of study relevant to a crime is called an expert witness. Scientists and doctors are often called to give expert witness testimony.[citation needed]


Court Procedure

Calling a Witness

In a court proceeding, a witness may be called (requested to testify) by either the prosecution or the defense. The side that calls the witness first asks questions, in what is called direct examination. The opposing side then may ask their own questions in what is called cross-examination. In some cases, redirect examination may then be used by the side that called the witness, but usually only to contradict specific testimony from the cross-examination.

Recalling a witness means calling a witness, who has already given testimony in a proceeding, to give further testimony. A court may only give leave to a party to recall a witness to give evidence about a matter adduced by another party if the second party's testimony contradicts evidence given by the original witness on direct examination.

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