By Jedidiah McKeehan

If you are watching a lawyer movie or tv show, there may be some criminal who has confessed to their crimes and is ready to testify against the crime kingpin. Then, right before the trial, someone gets to the witness and all of a sudden the witness has nothing to testify about and cannot remember the crime kingpin ever doing anything bad. This most famously took place in the second Godfather movie when the star witness sees his brother sitting next to Al Pacino (the Godfather) in the audience and suddenly changes his entire story.

This changing of a story is called, “recanting,” in the legal world, and this is typically done in criminal cases. A witness may recant their statement to the police where they state they saw the defendant commit a crime, or it may be a defendant recanting their confession for one reason or another, perhaps claiming they were coerced into making the confession.

Obviously recanting a story is a huge deal because it can completely change the outcome of a case. A defendant who may have been facing multiple years in prison may walk out the front door of the courthouse with the charges being dismissed.

You may be wondering if there are any ramifications for the person who recants their prior story? Will they be punished for changing their story? A witness will not be punished whatsoever. A criminal defendant is a different story. A judge may rule that a defendant’s prior confession is admissible, but the defendant can argue that the confession was coerced.

How often does someone recant? It is very rare. If you do hear about a case where someone recants their story, know that is something that almost never happens.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including divorce, custody, criminal, and personal injury.