People who sob (cry) on the witness stand, are they generally considered to be believable?

Everytime the accused cry on the witness stand or anywhere in a court proceeding, I always have this suspicion that it’s an act. This doesn’t mean that the actor is necessarily guilty but only that he and/or his lawyer felt it was advisable to put on this display of remorse and I generally don’t believe it. Apparently, one has to act out this remorse otherwise how would the jury know, right?

Oscar Pistorius sobbed twice while on the witness stand. I think he’s faking it. This man disgust me.

It depends on the context. If you’re accused of shoplifting, then yea, crying will raise some eyebrows.

If you killed the wrong person in self-defense, then it would look suspicious if you don’t cry or show some form of remorse.

But for Oscar Pistorius, his story is suspicious because it’s complete bullshit. The crying has nothing to do with it.

Oscar Pistorius has yet to testify. He cried during proceedings. The witnesses for the state are still testifying. If he takes the stand, it will only be after the state has presented its case.

Why do you think he feels no remorse? Whatever the outcome, his career is finished and he faces the very real prospect of a lengthy jail sentence. This is a young man who had the world at his feet (no pun intended) and had a very substantial income. There’s no money coming in now and his court cases will almost certainly bankrupt him. He faces the very real prospect of jail time.

And for what? For shooting his girlfriend of a few months?

BTW, there are no jury trials in South Africa.

You can feel genuine remorse and cry for the victim and still be lying and guilty. You can be crying because your life is ruined. You can be crying because it’s an emotionally charge proceeding that will determine your fate and your nerves are frayed. It really is no indication of the truth even when the tears are genuine. But there is no way to say if it generally makes you more believable. It depends on the entirety of the testimony and the particular jury.

He had the world at his …


Some people cry because they’re exhausted and tired, they’ve slept badly for {{ x }} nights, their world is being turned upside down, they have low blood sugar, their uterus is going through Cramps From Hell, their MIL called to bitch etc. etc. etc.

OK, the “uterus” excuse probably won’t work for a dude, but the others?

I’ve served on a number of juries, and while I can’t remember seeing a witness cry on the stand, I don’t see why I would automatically either believe or not believe them. Witness credibility involves a lot of factors, including the person’s actual demeanor, the context of what they are saying, whether their testimony is in agreement with other witnesses or evidence, and whether they might have ulterior motives for their testimony or behavior on the stand. I could easily believe that someone accused of a crime could cry simply because of the stress of the situation. I think this is something that has to be taken on a case-by-case basis.

I was a juror on a murder trial roughly 40 years ago where the young man accused of the crime cried copiously on the witness stand. When the time came for deliberations, two of my fellow jurors claimed that he could not possibly be guilty because it is physically impossible to cry on the witness stand if you’re guilty.

(The rest of us eventually convinced them otherwise and we all found the defendant guilty. The defendant eventually admitted his guilt to this crime in a later trial.)

Yes, exactly for that. For murdering her (allegedly.) I’m sure he’s upset that he faces jail time, but at least he’s alive. She doesn’t have that luxury. I’m not quite sure what you were trying to say with that last sentence.

I don’t have reason to believe that he is a cold-blooded sociopath. Hotheaded and impulsive, sure.

I have no reason he doesn’t feel genuine remorse for killing her.

I have a client who murdered his wife. I ended up having to withdraw from the case because of a conflict. But…

When I would go talk to him in the jail, he would switch on the tears, and then switch them right back off again. It was absurd. It didn’t play well to me and it didn’t play well to the jury that eventually convicted him. Of course, that jury did have the luxury of listening to him call the insurance company every day for a week to buy multiple “accidental death” insurance policies on his wife a few months prior to her “accident.” Particularly, on the phone, he wanted insurance that would cover her “falling off a ladder, or something.” His defense was that she fell off a ladder. He was no Moriarty.

On the other hand, I have seen witnesses (and defendant’s) express real emotion during a trial, that did not seem contrived, and I believe, did impact the jury’s impression. It all depends on the context and the person, I think…

Witnesses cry on the stand all the time in family court cases–divorce, custody, termination of parental rights, etc. Most of the time, the emotion appears to be genuine.

WAG based on similar research: it depends on the gender of the judge/jury, and also on the gender of the witness. So at least 4 combinations there.

O.K., what about people who vomit on the stand?

I don’t know, this sounds like he might be overplaying it a little.

Year after year, one student or another in a Qualitative Research Methods university course will spend the school term at the local courthouse and report on the “startling” discovery that criminal trials are most like a staged play in a special venue: The lawyers are directors coaching the actors (plaintiffs/defendants) to help portray their interpretation of the original tale and the judge (and/or jury) is the audience whose perception is being managed and manipulated. The costumes, the gestures (or lack), the behaviors, and even the cues to reactions are planned – even rehearsed – well before the performance (trial) begins. [q.v. much of Irving Goffman’s work on front stage vs back stage and performance and management of perception)

Seen that way, it’s easy to believe the crying, smiling, even outraged interjections are just another part of the performance. The key, then, is how well the players perform their given lines and roles.

All the world’s indeed a stage
We are merely players
Performers and portrayers
Each another’s audience
Outside the gilded cage.
…–some guy name Bill :wink:
Act 2 Scene 7
…As You Like It