Testifying in Court
Coming to court and testifying in front of a judge or a jury is a new and stressful experience for most people. There are certain things that witnesses should keep in mind in order to be effective. First, TELL THE TRUTH! This can not be emphasized enough. As a witness you take an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and that is exactly what you should do.
- TELL THE TRUTH. Even if the truth hurts your case, you have sworn to tell the truth. Tell the story accurately and honestly, and when you do not remember the answer to a question which has been asked, say that you do not remember. Never make something up!
- Come to court on time. You should plan to arrive a few minutes early. If a witness shows up late, it reflects poorly on the credibility of that witness. It gives the impression that the witness does not care enough about the case to arrive on time.
- Dress appropriately. Your appearance should be neat and clean.
- Keep your temper under control. You should not yell and scream in a courtroom. Often things are said in a courtroom which one party finds upsetting. Some of the attorneys questioning you may try to upset you. It is very important to keep your composure. Never argue with the attorneys or the judge. You may get mad, but yelling or screaming or making statements out of turn, hurts your credibility and disrupts the proceedings. If an attorney or another party is saying something which is making you mad, remember you will have the chance to tell your story and explain your answers.
- Stick to the facts of your case. The judge wants to hear from you, but he or she only wants to hear the facts of the event that brought you to court. The judge does not want to hear about other events which are not related to the charges. The judge does not want to hear what other people have told you, only what you heard and saw.
- Prepare ahead of time. Think about what happened, what you saw and what you heard. Think about what questions you will probably be asked and whether or not you know the answer to those questions.
- Listen to the question asked. Listen very carefully to the entire question. Do not start to answer a question until the attorney has finished asking the question.
- Think before you answer. Do not just blurt out an answer. Think back to the day of the event you are being asked about and then answer the question truthfully. Answer the question asked.
- Answer clearly. Speak clearly and loudly so the court and attorneys are able to hear you. What you have to say is important; make sure it is stated clearly.
- If you make a mistake in an answer, admit it. Don’t try to cover it up. Nobody is going to hold it against you that you misspoke, but they certainly will hold it against you if they think you are lying.