Fed. R. Evid. 608(a) (Rule 608(a)) provides that the credibility of a witness may be attacked by evidence in the form of opinion or reputation. While it may be more desirable to have counsel first ask the impeaching witness about his knowledge of the defendant's reputation for truth and veracity, and whether based on that knowledge he would believe the defendant under oath, Rule 608(a) imposes no such requirement. Witnesses may now be asked directly to state their opinion of the principal witness' character for truthfulness and they may answer for example, "I think X is a liar." The rule imposes no prerequisite conditioned upon long acquaintance or recent information about the witness; cross-examination can be expected to expose defects of lack of familiarity and to reveal reliance on isolated or irrelevant instances of misconduct or the existence of feelings of personal hostility towards the principal witness.
Howard Lollar (defendant) was convicted for interstate transportation of stolen property valued in excess of $ 5,000 in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2314. After Lollar had testified at trial, the government recalled one of its witnesses and asked him whether he would believe Lollar under oath. The district court overruled defense counsel's objection and the witness answered the question in the negative. Upon challenging the conviction, Lollar argued it was error to have allowed the witness to offer his opinion on his veracity.
Did the district court err in overruling defense counsel's objection of the act of allowing a witness to offer his opinion on Lollar's veracity?
The Court held that while it may be more desirable to have counsel first ask the impeaching witness about his knowledge of Lollar's reputation for truth and veracity, and whether based on that knowledge he would have believed Lollar under oath, Fed. R. Evid. 608(a) imposed no such requirement. As such, the district court properly overruled defense counsel's objection. Neither was Lollar prejudiced by the admission of testimony by a police officer, as he failed to allege that the officer's actions resulted in his arrest or the discovery of incriminating evidence, and he corroborated the officer's testimony. The judgment below was affirmed.