Top 10 tips before taking the stand
In trial, witnesses are the ones who are there to tell the story, so here are 10 tips to keep in mind when prepping a witness for testimony:
- Tell the truth
- Take your time and remain calm. If opposing counsel gets agitated it means you are doing well.
- Listen carefully to the question. Answer only what is asked.
- Answer in your own words. Remember, replying “Yes” means you agree to every word in the question. Attorneys like compound and complex questions to try and lock you into agreeing with something you don’t agree with.
- Related, only answer the easy parts of questions when they are compound questions and require 3 answers.
- You are not trying to please the attorney. You really don’t care what she or he thinks of your answers. You only care what the jurors think.
- Words are important, but by the time the jury deliberates they are left with impressions of witnesses. You want their impression of you to be you are credible, likeable and trustworthy.
- Do not look at your attorney too often. It looks as if you’re searching for an answer or seeking approval from an answer given.
- Dress nicely. Jurors make all kinds of judgements based on physical appearance.
- Instead of using legal jargon use jury friendly words. Activation lights in a rear view mirror are more commonly known by jurors as flashing red and blue police car lights. Do jurors talk about ‘the subject vehicle?’ Or about someone who died as ‘the decedent?’