In Wilson v. State, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously held that a party may impeach the credibility of its own witness with that witness' prior inconsistent statement without showing that the testimony is a total surprise or affirmatively damaging to the party's case.
Bill Ray Wilson was convicted of murder and armed robbery on the basis of testimony from three prosecution witnesses. His case consisted solely of his sworn denial. The testimony of one prosecution witness was inconsistent with a previous written, sworn statement in which the witness had said Wilson had confessed to the murder in his presence several days after the crime. The district attorney, claiming that he had been "entrapped" by the witness' testimony, sought to impeach the witness under §38-1801 of the Georgia Code by introducing the prior inconsistent statement. The district attorney admitted knowing that the witness had been waivering from his original statement but said that he had called the witness anyway with the hope that he would be faithful to his earlier, more colorful version of the story. The trial court eventually was persuaded that the prosecution had been adequately entrapped and allowed the district attorney to impeach the witness with his earlier contradictory statement.
Gunn, Robert R. II
"A Party Need Not Show Prejudice or Surprise to Impeach Its Own Witness,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 28:
1, Article 26.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol28/iss1/26