This guide will give you a primer as to how to prepare and testify in court.
Lying under oath can be bad for you and for your case. Truthfulness is critical to being an effective witness. Look at the jury when you address them. Eye contact is critical to establish that you are not afraid to stand behind what you say.
Practice what you are expected to testify about.
There is no harm in going over with your lawyer the types of questions that you will be asked. It would be foolish not to do so. It is also not a bad idea to visit the courtroom so as to understand how it is laid out and where you will be sitting. Areas where you can expect to be cross examined should also be gone over and your answers should be something that you do not appear surprised when the question is asked. Study any documents that you may be questioned on. If you had a deposition taken of you in the case, read it and be familiar with what you said. Look at what the other side is saying as well.
Dress the part.
How you dress says a lot about you. Dressing sloppily or inappropriately tells the jury that you do not care about the case or that you do not respect them. Your day in court is important to you and you want the jury to know that you are taking it very seriously. Remember that some jurors may not appreciate piercings or tattoos being displayed. If you have a fashion statement about you that you must make, now is not the time to make it.
Always be respectful.
No matter how contentious the proceedings may get, always treat the other attorney, as well as your own with respect. It goes without saying that you must be respectful to the judge. The more the other attorney tries to get you off your game, remember you will score more points by being calm and courteous that by letting it get to you.
Remember that you are on the stand even when you are not on the stand.
Jurors can observe you as you sit in the courtroom, when you walk to the stand and even when you walk from your car in the parking lot. A potential or actual juror may be looking at the way you handle yourself and you must remember that your conduct is always being scrutinized. I can think of a case that was lost when the jury watched the Plaintiff, who was claiming a back injury and was late coming back from lunch, run across the courtyard in high heels.
If you do not undertand the question say so.
If the question is unclear or if it is confusing, there is no harm in asking for clarification. This does not mean that you should be intentionally avoiding answering a question.
Pause before answering.
A good idea is to wait a beat before answering the question. It allows your attorney time to object if necessary and gives you time to fully understand the question before giving your answer.
I don't remember.
If you truly do not remember that can be a perfectly acceptable response and one that you should not be ashamed of. A witness may appear to be more truthful by not remembering every little detail. Many of those questions may be harmless and concern insignificant facts. Just be careful about the big details and why you are there.
Listen and anwer the question- do not volunteer information.
This is probably the best piece of advice. Do not tell the court or the jury what you want to tell them, answer the question that you have been asked. There may be legal reasons for that particular question, or it may be lead in for a more important question. You should not assume or try to guess what is coming up. Just stick to the question and answer it as simply as possible. You will appear to be evasive and untruthful if you fail to answer the actual question that was asked of you or if you repeat the question asked and not give the answer. Remember these jurors or judges are giving their time to hear what you have to say and they notice if you do not respond to the question.
Remember the opposing counsel is not your friend.
While the other attorney may seem harmless or even friendly, he or she has a job to do. That job is to make sure that you lose your case. Remain professional, but do not be lulled into a false sense of security by the other side.
There is no harm in a short, simple "Yes" or "No" answer.
Sometimes questions can be answered simply yes or no. There is no harm in doing so and failing to do so may result in a poor impression being left with the judge or jury. On cross examination, you may have to answer in a yes or no fashion. Do not fight it, but listen to the question and if it calls for a yes or no, state that and move on.
Try to appear relaxed and confident.
This is your day in court. If you appear sure of yourself, your testimony will be more believable. Jurors tend to believe the person who is full of confidence- but not cocky. do not let that go to arrogance or to your being flip when testifying. Always temper it with respect for the process.
This is your day in court. Make the most of it and best of luck to you. If you have any questions, ask you lawyer.
What should I wear?
Remember that you are being judged by the jury- or the judge. How do you want to project yourself? What image do you want to convey? You should dress appropriately and in something that reflects your respect for the process. Do not wear overly revealing clothes or work clothes that are dirty. Gentlemen should wear a sport coat or a tie if you have one. Women should dress as if they are going to an important business meeting.
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