Witnesses are usually most effective in situations where they are unimpeachable. The integrity of a witness depends on two things-the reliability of their testimony as well as their personal integrity. No lawyer wants to put a witness on the stand that can be impeached because of a checkered history.
Yet, that’s exactly what Miami-Dade prosecutors did recently in a hit-and-run DUI case. The star witness for the prosecution was a prostitute who happened to be riding with the defendant at the time he ran a red light in west Miami and severely injured a young father on a scooter.
She was a very unlikely state’s witness,” Sally Matson, a victim’s advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told the Herald. “She risked harm and consequences. Without her, justice would never have been possible.”
A jury convicted Robert Velazco in November of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
It was Suri’s testimony that helped put Velazco behind bars — though Velazco tried to claim it was actually Suri behind the wheel. However, independent witnesses said a man was behind the wheel of the truck when it struck Rodas, the Herald reported.
This case just goes to show that a “good witness” depends in large part on the circumstances of the case. In this instance, her background didn’t matter. When the accident occurred, she did the right thing by immediately flagging down a police officer. Her testimony never wavered and the jury believed her.
Velazco will spend the next 20 years behind bars. This wasn’t his first brush with the law either. He had racked up more than 20 convictions before his arrest. One such conviction came from another state, in which he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a minor, Miami-Dade prosecutor Desiree Staeffer said in court.
“The victim was 15 years of age,” she said. “Not only did the defendant almost kill someone, he also raped someone.”
Other convictions include 11 for cocaine possession and others for burglary and grand-theft auto.