MC was charged with F1 aggravated assault, possessing an instrument of crime and various other offenses. The Commonwealth alleged that the complaining witness woke up to MC screaming “I need money or they will kill me” while stabbing the complainant in the neck with a knife. It was undisputed that the alleged victim, in his sixties, was badly punctured, suffered a stroke and had partial paralysis from the injury. The Commonwealth’s case was sailing smoothly until cross-examination from Mr. Shaffer.
On cross, every detail of the story was ran over and every inconsistency was pulled apart. Mr. Shaffer was able to elicit from the complaining witness that he knew the defendant by a different name, that he had no idea when and where they originally met – despite “being family friends for a long time” and that he had given the defendant money that night. Mr. Shaffer further elicited testimony that the knife the police picked up was not the weapon used to stab the complaining witness. The complainant tried calling the detective to pick up the real knife, but the detective wasn’t interested.
The police officer that testified for the Commonwealth was also wrung through the cross-examination wringer. Mr. Shaffer highlighted egregious inconsistencies between the officer’s testimony in court and the paper work he filled out on the day of the incident, over a year ago. Detectives normally give beneficial testimony to the Commonwealth, but this time the defense used him to show that the complaining witness was a liar and that the detective would have picked up the actual weapon if he had been called about it.
The final destruction of the Commonwealth’s case came when Mr. Shaffer’s client testified that he was working as a prostitute and that the complaining witness had given him money in exchange for oral sex. MC further testified and that he only stabbed the complainant when he forcibly tried to have anal sex with the defendant without a condom. After closing arguments the judge declared that she “Doesn’t know what happened that night, but thinks the complaining witness is not credible” which led to a not guilty verdict instead of a serious state sentence!