In court, testimony is vital to making a case. If your witness has not been prepped, however, there is a big chance that they will fold and crack under pressure. Giving witnesses during a trial is highly stressful, and it can cause issues if you are not ready. Practice makes perfect, and helping a witness understand what is in store allows nervousness and keeps them from feeling like they need to flee. To prepare the witness successfully, you need to ensure that they understand what questions they will be asking and the way that they should respond.
Be Aware Of What You Are Doing
Focus on your strengths and be aware of everything that you are doing. For example, if you hate speaking, that will be something that you need to focus on to make the case successful. If you are firm with communicating, you will need to be more aware of how you decide to give the information. It would be most advantageous to you if you thought before you speak and take the time to respond thoughtfully. Do not sound unsure. That will make the jurors distrust you because they will believe that you are lying.
A witness will also need to answer the question and anticipate self-serving questions and lawyers moving to strike. They need to be aware of detrimental queries and how to respond to them in a way that offers damage control, and that will show them that you can rehabilitate when they attempt a redirect. A witness should also be aware that rhetorical questions are annoying and they can bother people. If your witness lets their emotions run wild, that doesn’t do the case any good whatsoever.
A witness should never lie. Under no circumstances should a lawyer ever tell a witness to lie. Falsehoods and the slightest exaggerations are constantly exposed in court, and it’s easy to spot when someone isn’t telling the truth. In addition to this, every judge will follow the motto that they will lie on everything if someone lies on one thing.
Questions Require Witness Preparation
With witness preparation, you will need to educate them on the different techniques they will use regarding questions. If you have only prepared them for open and close questions, they will falter when a probing question arises. As such, you need to prepare them for anything that comes up.
A closed question is usually answered with a yes or a no. However, an open question will need a longer answer, and it usually involves the basic who, what, when, where, why, and how. It will ask for your witness’s knowledge on the subject and requires the witness to think. An example would be ‘what happened at the party that you attended with the victim.’
Leading questions are popular as well, and they are used to lead you to where they want you to go. They will ask something with an assumption or asking you what you think to add a personal appeal to where they want you to be. Keep in mind it’s not what you want; it’s what they want. They will also give you a choice between two options and expect a witness to choose right away.
Rhetorical questions are redundant, and they have no purpose. It’s just a statement. However, it can trip up a witness, so you need to be prepared for that and ensure that they are ready for it so that your case doesn’t suffer. Another area of confusion is funnel questions. These are general questions that become more intense. Used most often by detectives questioning a witness, it’s a popular method in court because it can break witnesses and has been done so many times.
Probing Questions are another area where you should make sure that witness preparation is utilized. Asking probing questions is to understand certain statements or investigate whether there is factual truth in what someone is saying. They are used to purposely draw information out of people who don’t want to tell you something, and your witness should be aware that these questions will get used a lot. Another reason your person should be mindful of this is that once the probing questions start, they get more and more intense, and the pressure rises.
Be Reasonable & Watch How You Present Yourself
A witness should present the judge with clear answers and solutions, and they should be a voice of reason within the court. They are coming to you for answers, and you will need to be able to answer the questions thoroughly and without hesitation. A witness also needs to be calm and collected. Losing your temper doesn’t do any good, and it will only hurt the case and possibly cause a mistrial.
Judges appreciate and value an unbiased answer and someone objective and not trying to con the court. If the judge believes that you are incapable of telling the truth, they will say that your testimony cannot be used, or you will be the reason that the case fails. Either way that isn’t what you want as a lawyer. Teaching your witness the proper ways to respond and practicing with their emotional responses will help you win the case without traumatizing the witness.
Going To Trial
As an attorney knows, a trial is stressful to everyone involved. That is true even more so for the witness because they don’t have the experience that an attorney has, and it can cause emotional turmoil for the person sitting on the stand. Ensuring that they are calm, relaxed, and collected when they get on that stand is the best way to ensure that they are ready. You will need to educate them on questioning tactics and how they are used against people in court. The tactic of the courtroom is to get you to spill your guts and panic. There is no need to panic when you have been prepped, and you know you are telling the truth. Never let your witness feel attacked or abused on the stand. Make intelligent decisions and prepare them as thoroughly as you can.