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Testimony is admissible so long as the evidence:

  • relates only to character for truthfulness or untruthfulness, and
  • only after the character of the witness has been attached by opinion or reputation evidence “or ”


Other than conviction of a crime [set out in Rule 609]. But specific instances are admissible within court’s discretion on cross-examination if probative of truthfulness or untruthfulness and inquired into concerning:

  • the witness’ character for truthfulness, or
  • the character for truthfulness of another witness as to whose character the witness being cross-examined has testified [eg. “have-you-heards”].

U.S. v. Morales-Quinones, 812 F.2d 604 (10th Cir. 1987) (defendant may impeach government witness by cross-examining him about specific instances of conduct not resulting in conviction if probative of witness’ character for truthfulness or untruthfulness);

U.S. v. Hit Hitchmon, 609 F.2d 1098 (5th Cir. 1979) (reversible error to restrict cross-examination of assaulted officers in an effort to show they previously had perjured themselves in the case);

U.S. v. Cluck, 544 F.2d 195 (5th Cir. 1976) (reversible error to attack witness’ credibility by extrinsic evidence of prior arrest that has not resulted in conviction);

U.S. v. Park, 525 F.2d 1279 (5th Cir. 1976) (Rule 608(b) not permit cross- examination of defense witness, who testified defendant had not stolen item charged, regarding suspicious air conditioner shipments and pay-offs to the accused);

U.S. v. Alvarado, 519 F.2d 1133 (5th Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1073 (1977) (trial court held to have properly precluded questions of prosecution witnesses in marijuana trial regarding their possible prostitution and homosexuality [even though offered to show bias and motive to testify for government] on grounds same was too speculative);

U.S. v. Banks, 520 F.2d 627 (7th Cir. 1975);

U.S. v. Wood, 550 F.2d 435 (9th Cir. 1977) (testimony by Mexican police officer that defendant wanted in Mexico for auto theft was inadmissible even though it was contrary to defendant’s own testimony);

U.S. v. Dinitiz, 538 F.2d 1214, 1224 (5th Cir. 1976) (en banc) (stating must articulate theory of admissibility);

U.S. v. Curry, 512 F.2d 1299 (4th Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 932 (1975) (addressing as to “have-you-heards”);

Steele v. Perez, 827 F.2d 190 (7th Cir. 1987) (court prohibited accused child molester from cross-examining two key child witnesses about prior specific instances of lying. Court held that defendant is entitled to probe deeply about witness’ bias or motive, but not to impeach a witness’ character as a truthful person).

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