Evidence – Examination of Witnesses – Surprise as Grounds for Impeaching a Party’s Own Witness

The defendant was convicted of the statutory rape of his stepdaughter. Immediately following the alleged offense, the victim had signed a statement accusing the defendant of the crime charged. Before the trial, however, the district attorney was advised by the defense counsel, and by the victim herself, that the written statement was not true. At the trial, when called as a witness by the commonwealth, the girl repudiated her earlier statement, whereupon the district attorney pleaded surprise and was permitted to use the prior statement to impeach. On appeal, held, affirmed. The district attorney was “actually surprised” when the witness repudiated her earlier statement, and so he could impeach the witness to neutralize the effect of the unexpected testimony. Commonwealth v. Bowers, (Pa. Super. 1956) 127 A. (2d) 806.