Prior to testifying, review any previous statements you have made in the case. This may be a recorded statement to an insurance company, an affidavit, interrogatory responses, or a deposition transcript. Studies show that when a witness in trial makes a statement that contradicts an earlier statement, juries believe the witness is more likely to be purposely lying than making an honest mistake. (Source: Kroll Ontrack/TrialGraphix).
Dress for Success.
Your attire for the courtroom should be professional and appropriate; however, you should take care to be yourself to reduce any nervousness you may otherwise feel. You can look nice without spending a fortune, and there is no reason to run out and buy a new Brooks Brothers suit for the occasion. Take care to remove any flashy jewelry. Jewelry in the courtroom should be limited to functional watches and wedding bands.
Know what would you are being called upon to testify about ahead of time and review any materials at your disposal related to the case prior to trial. Know the facts. If you have never testified in court before, take time to go to the courthouse and familiarize yourself with the layout so you feel more comfortable the day of your testimony.
Pay Attention to Your Body Language.
What you say with your body is just as important as what you say with your words. Juries often equate moderate to excessive nervousness with dishonesty. Use non-verbal cues to enhance your credibility the jury. Positive indicators of credibility typically include confidence, keeping an open posture, making eye contact with the jury and questioner, and wearing appropriate attire.
Too often witnesses let their nervousness and desire to get off the stand interfere with their testimony. Listen carefully to what is being asked by the attorney and respond only with what is necessary to fully answer the question. Avoid jumping to a non-responsive point and elaborating on details that are not germane to the question. This is especially important on cross examination.
Speak with Confidence.
The jury needs to hear what you are saying in order for them to reach a decision in the case. Ensure you are speaking loudly and clearly so everyone in the courtroom can hear you. It will also ensure you are not interrupted by requests from the judge or court reporter to speak up so they can hear you. Speaking loudly and clearly, rather than mumbling, will also enhance your credibility.
On cross examination, do not try to argue or become combative with the attorney. This often does more harm for your credibility than it does good. Remember that the attorney calling you will more than likely be able to fix any damage on redirect. Also try to avoid taking sides in your testimony. Present your testimony in an objective manner and let the attorney do the advocating. When jurors think a witness is partisan, they tend to give their testimony less weight and may even reject it altogether.
Pay Attention to Objections.
If an objection is raised, stop talking. If a judge says, "Overruled," you may answer the question. If a judge says, "Sustained," you may not answer the question. If you do not remember the question after the lawyers argue the objection, then ask that it be repeated before you start answering.
Do Not Memorize.
Some witnesses have a tendency to try to memorize everything they are going to say on the stand. This is at odds with the goal of effective testimony in trial, which is to develop a conversational tone. It is important to know your facts, but it is also important not to memorize word for word what you plan to say. Juries often find testimony less credible when it sounds rehearsed.
Tell the Truth.
Always tell the truth on the stand, even if it hurts. No case is perfect, and it's up to the attorney to advocate on their client's behalf. A lying witness only complicates matters for the side calling that witness.
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