What is Hostile Witness?

A hostile witness is an irritable individual summoned by a party but who seems to have a bone to pick with them. These types of witnesses are often unhelpful, argumentative, and resistant to answering questions.

The hostile witness is typically summoned by the opposing party to impugn their testimony or extract additional information.

During the cross-examination, which is usually conducted by the opposing party, leading questions can be posed to a hostile witness, a tactic typically not allowed during direct examination.

Leading questions suggest an answer to the witness, and cross-examination's purpose is to challenge the witness's statements.

A hostile witness can present an unexpected challenge to an attorney, who must adjust their strategies to counteract their non-cooperative behavior, which could diminish their case's credibility.

However, clever attorneys may be able to manipulate the witness's hostility to their advantage by extracting information that supports their argument.

While courts prefer that witnesses be truthful and cooperative, the irritable witness's demeanor does not necessarily discredit their testimony.

It is up to the trier of fact, who assesses the witness's credibility and the evidence presented, to assign weight to their statements.