Testimony evidence is a legal term that refers to written or oral statements used as evidence in a criminal or civil trial. There are many different ways that testimony evidence is used in a trial, including as an account of a crime or as an expert opinion on an aspect of the trial. In most regions, testimony evidence must be gathered and presented according to strict legal guidelines or it is subject to dismissal from the court's consideration.
Eyewitness testimony evidence is often important to a trial as it is usually a form of direct evidence. An eyewitness is a person that saw a crime occur in person, and thus may be a valuable source of gathering facts about the situation. As direct evidence, eyewitness testimony is considered a factual account of a crime without inference, assuming the witness is telling the truth.
Some oral testimony evidence may also be to provide details about a party to a trial, such as a character witness. In a case where a person has died as an apparent victim of domestic violence, testimony may be given by close friends or relatives about the stability of the relationship and any previous instances of violence in the family. While not direct evidence, this type of testimony evidence can help build a case for either side in a trial by painting a picture of the whole situation for the judge or jury.
Written testimony evidence is another form of testimony frequently used. This type of information usually comes in the form of sworn statements that are guaranteed to be factual by the lawyer. Usually, written testimony evidence is either an affidavit or a deposition transcript. An affidavit is a person's written response to written questions, while a transcript is a written recording of a conversation or interview between the lawyer and the witness that the witness has signed and verified as correct.
A written or recorded statement by a witness may be allowed as testimony evidence in the event that the witness could not attend the trial for special reasons. Often, this form of evidence is used in cases where the witness is expected to die before the trial takes place. If, for example, a group of workers was suing a company for illegally exposing them to harmful chemicals that caused life-threatening illnesses, workers that were in hospice care or considered terminal might be able to record their testimony for presentation at the trial. This type of testimony is called testimony de bene esse.
Expert testimony evidence is often used in trials that involve specialized knowledge that can affect the case. In a plane crash, for instance, experts may be called in to analyze the crash and give plausible explanations as to the cause, based on the circumstances. Generally, an expert witness is an independent party who receives a fee for his or her analysis. In some regions, experts may be hired by the lawyers representing each side of the case, whereas in others, the experts are hired by the court and considered totally independent of ties to either side.