Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Runaway Witness Definition:

A witness who, while under cross-examination, is unresponsive.

Related Terms: Witness, Cross Examination

Ponzer and Dodd write:

“A runaway witness is any witness who is unresponsive to the question put on cross-examination.”

For example, in Sheffield v Sheffield, Justice Keller of the Common Pleas Court of Fulton County (Pennsylvania) noted:

"In this case, we find a classic runaway witness. After reading and re-reading at least four times the testimony of plaintiff, we find ourselves utterly confused as to when and at what times during this troubled marriage defendant did what precise things to plaintiff. We gather that at some period or periods during the 22 years of marriage there were several years of happiness or relative happiness. However, it is unclear whether this occurred at the beginning of the marriage and/or during one or more reconciliations subsequent to the commencement of the first divorce action by Mr. Sheffield. Mrs. Sheffield's repeated suggestions that her counsel or the master confirm her testimony by asking others, indicates the availability of witnesses to a variety of the instances that she testified to, including her own physical condition. However, none of these witnesses were called and no explanation was given for the failure to present them. The one corroborating witness called by plaintiff presented primarily hearsay testimony and provided very little by way of corroboration of the indignities allegedly committed by defendant."


  • Ponzer, Larry, and Dodd, Roger, Cross-Examination Science and Techniques, 2nd Ed. (San Fransisco: LexisNexis, 2004), page 14-3.
  • Sheffield v. Sheffield, 6 Pa. D. & C. 3d 745 (1978)

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