SUGGESTIONS FOR TESTIFYING IN COURT
The following are some helpful tips for your upcoming court appearance:
Please go back and review these suggestions so that you will have them firmly in your mind. We hope they will help.
CHECKLIST FOR THE CLIENT/WITNESS AT TRIAL
The following are general instructions for you to prepare for courtroom testimony.
There will be twelve (or six) jurors in this case. I want you to think of then as your friends and neighbors who really want to hear what you have to say about this case. I want you to look at them and talk to them when you are answering both my questions as well as the cross-examination questions. Remember that those jurors have a duty to do in this case and they will take their duty very seriously They are going to decide who is telling the truth and who is not. If you fail to look at them while you are answering the questions they are not as likely to believe what you have to say. So, just remember to look at the jury.
I will be the first to ask you questions. Since you are "our witness" I cannot ask you leading questions. So, I have to ask you "Was the light red or green?" instead of, "The light was red, wasn't it?" Therefore, you need to give me a little help as far as speaking up and giving the needed information to the jury.
When I have finished asking you my questions, the lawyer representing the Defendant will then have a right to ask you questions and can ask leading questions. It is very important that you listen closely to what he asks leading questions. It is very important that you listen closely to what he asks and just answer the question without going into other matters. If you continue talking after you have answered the question you are just helping him figure out his next question to you. You will also increase the chance of saying the wrong thing and thereby give him a better chance of showing you are wrong about something. If he asks you if you have the time, your answer should be, "yes" (or "no"), but do not give him the time until he asks for it.
Please do not try to make objections to his questions. I will not let him abuse you and neither will the judge.
But, just because he can't abuse you does not mean that he is not allowed to ask you tough questions. So long as the questions are permitted under the rules, then you must do your best to truthfully answer them. I will review your testimony with you in a few minutes to prepare you for what he is likely to ask you, and I am sure you will be able to handle all his questions well.
If he asks something that is tough, do not look at me, because the jury will get the impression that you are expecting me to help you with your answer. That would make a bad impression on the jury. Remember to look at the jury and, if your answer is "I do not know," then tell them that.
Be truthful in your answers, and you will not have anything to remember.
The judge will not permit the other lawyer to ask the kind of personal questions that he asked at depositions.The rules are different in court. (The court will probably set limits on what types of personal questions will be allowed, such as conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, prior accidents or injuries or prior claims or lawsuits for injuries or testimony at previous trials or depositions.)
Be respectful toward everyone in the courtroom. Being too smart or trying to argue about things (other than the facts that you actually know) can cause the jury and judge to lose confidence in everything you say. Let me take care of the situation if the other lawyer becomes offensive with you or otherwise asks you questions outside the rules.
If either lawyer makes an objection, you should stop talking until the judge rules on the objection. If the judge says the objection is "overruled" then you will be allowed to answer the question. If he says the objection is "sustained" it means you cannot answer it. Do not worry about what is happening, since it will probably be confusing to you anyway. Just wait until after the judge has ruled and either the judge or I (or possibly even the other lawyer) will tell you whether or not to answer the question. If you forget the question during the meantime, then ask that the question be repeated.
Time, Speed, Distance, Diagrams
Unless you have actually timed and measured the events, you would be surprised how far off your guesses or best estimates can be. If you saw something took three seconds that actually took two seconds, or was one hundred feet when it was actually eight-five feet, you may well have placed the fault for the accident on the wrong party. Attorneys are trained to calculate the speed, time or distance if they can learn two of these three measurements. That one second or fifteen foot, distance error could make a big difference in the final calculation and therefore the fault. So, do not make guesses or estimates by the use of numbers. It is acceptable to use common expressions of time such as "a split second", " a blink of an eye" or "quicker than a New York minute", and these will avoid incorrect calculations of speed, time, distance and fault.
Also, do not try to draw any pictures or diagrams. Just tell the lawyer that you cannot do it. Sketches are never accurate but the other lawyer will always try to take advantage of any errors that seem to point fault away from his client.