Admission of Prior Inconsistent Statements of a Witness In Texas

Although the rules regarding the admission of prior inconsistent statements are clear, problems arise when a party calls a witness for the sole purpose of impeaching the witness and placing before the jury substantive evidence which is otherwise inadmissible. The Court of Criminal Appeals recently addressed this issue and provided the proper method for dealing with this type of situation in Hughes v. State, 4 S.W.3d 1 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999). In Hughes, the court suggests that in cases where it is unclear whether the State is aware that its witness will testify unfavorably, the trial court should engage in an analysis similar to the Rule 403 balancing approach. Id. at 5. The State's knowledge that its own witness will testify unfavorably is simply one factor the trial court must consider in determining the evidence's admissibility. Id. Another factor to be used in determining whether the party who called a witness may impeach that witness with a prior inconsistent statement is whether the party offering the statement is doing so in reaction to the witness's surprising or injurious testimony. See Hughes, 4 S.W.3d at 5; Miranda, 813 S.W.2d at 734-35.