How to Be a Witness in Court. As a witness in court, you play a very important trial techniques mauet pdf of the legal process. In a criminal case, what you say and how you say it can keep an innocent person from going to jail or ensure that a guilty person is not set free to commit new crimes.
In a civil lawsuit, your testimony will not usually send anyone to jail, but it can significantly affect fundamental legal rights. Taking the time to learn to be a good witness in court is crucial, because the jury will arrive at a verdict based on not only what you say, but on their impression of you. Consider the main points you plan to convey, bearing in mind that it may not be necessary to address every detail. Create a timeline or list of talking points as you work through your recollection of events and the physical or electronic documents or evidence associated with those events. If you have a number of pieces of evidence supporting your testimony, include a reference to them with your talking points. Initially include anyone or anything that will support your presentation.
A simple school binder with tabs is sufficient for a less complicated topic. If you are a witness in a case, you can’t relate second-hand information. For example, if your friend Joe told you that he heard the defendant Sarah say that she was going to rob a bank, this is inadmissible hearsay. Remember that you can’t automatically use your notes during testimony. In most cases in the United States, the Federal Rules of Evidence prohibit witnesses from reading their testimony from documents or notes.
The attorneys will advise you beforehand if you will be able to use notes. You will have to return the document or notes before making your statement. If you use written documents or notes during your testimony, the other side and their attorney have the right to look at those documents. This will help refresh your memory of details you may have forgotten. To hold something in abeyance means to leave something undetermined until a future time when it may be necessary. For example, if you think a part of your testimony is irrelevant — e. Remember that if an attorney can point out a discrepancy between your court testimony and your previous statements, you can lose credibility with the jury.