Here are twelve (12) things every witness should know.
Prepare to give accurate testimony in advance of your appearance as a witness.
You must understand, legally and factually, the theory of the case and why you have been called as a witness. You should know what the attorney is asking you to prove. You must be familiar with dates, places, documents and events. You must have personal knowledge of all facts that your are expected to testify to.
Deposition vs. In Court
A deposition is taken before a court reporter and your words are recorded in a transcript that can be referenced at a later date. Court testimony is given in court before a Judge and/or Jury and are always recorded, and in most courts, video taped too. Depositions can be video taped but normally they are not, however, they are almost always audio recorded. In both a deposition or at trial you will be under oath to tell the truth. Remember that the other side is always on the look out to get information to crystallize your testimony, and, if possible, to discredit you (the legal term is to "impeach" the witness). If you contradict your testimony at a deposition or trial, it can (and will) be used to discredit your testimony.
Always tell the truth.... even if it hurts.
The other lawyer may appear friendly, but be cautious. He/She is not your friend. He/She may try to turn your words against you. Remember the cardinal rule to: Think before you speak. Never ever lie while under oath.
Never ever assume.
If you have any doubt about the meaning of a question, or any words used by the attorney, say so. Do not wait. Come right out and say: "I am sorry, but I do not understand.... [a] the question; or, [b] what the word __________ means; or, [c] what you want me to answer." If you do not understand the question, say so. Don't guess. If you do not know the answer, or don't remember, just say so. I do not recall is an acceptable answer if you truly do not recall.
Tell your story, not someone else's.
Do not let anyone put words in your mouth. This includes: the other lawyer, your lawyer, or the Judge. Use your own words. State only facts that you have observed, not what someone else told you.
Do not allow yourself to be intimidated.
Do not let anyone brow beat you.
Look and sound authoritative.
Dress in appropriate business attire. Speak loudly and clearly.
Never volunteer information.
ATFQ: (Answer the f--- question, and only the question asked.) Do not volunteer either information or documents. Answer each question and stop.
Do not argue with the person who is asking you questions, and never ever argue with a Judge.
Tell the truth, keep calm, avoid flippancy or arguments. Be courteous. NEVER argue with the Judge or opposing Counsel. Frequently Judges get upset at trials. They can be upset for a whole host of reasons, none of which may apply to you. Your job at trial is to just Answer the questions and leave.
Need a break? Ask.
If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, request a short recess. If you need to use the bathroom, just say so.
Be on time... be early if possible.
Be early. Prepare in advance so that you know exactly where the deposition/trial is scheduled, the location of the Court, Courtroom, where to park, and what documents you will need to bring with you.
Liars rarely win. False in one, false at all.
Remember Judges are experienced at ascertaining credibility. If you are convinced of your testimony, tell the truth, and have done your homework, you will be your own best witness.
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