Monday, January 23, 2017

Use Immunity and Impeachment

Came across an interesting issue in a tutoring session that I thought worth posting about:

Assume a situation in which a witness at a grand jury proceeding refuses to answer a question by claiming the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.  Use immunity is granted and the witness then answers the questions asked.  Later when the case goes to trial, the witness states something contradictory to what was stated at the grand jury proceeding, and the prosecution wants to use the previous statement at the grand jury proceeding as a prior inconsistent statement for purposes of impeaching the witness at trial. Will the fact that the witness was granted use immunity at the grand jury proceeding prevent the prosecution from using that statement during the trial to impeach the witness?

The use immunity will not prevent the opportunity for impeachment by the prosecution. A witness who testifies under a grant of use immunity is protected against use of that testimony in any subsequent criminal trial against that witness.  But since in the above hypothetical the witness was not the defendant in the subsequent trial, use immunity will not prevent offering the statement made at the prior grand jury proceeding for the purposes of impeaching that witness at trial.

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