A Good Witness in Court: How to Be One
If you’ve ever had to testify in court, you know that being a good witness isn’t easy, and you may have even been the victim of an ineffective one who lost your case because they weren’t familiar with courtroom protocol.
To help ensure that your case won’t be thrown out and that justice will prevail, this will teach you how to be an effective witness in court based on tips from lawyers who have years of experience in this area of law.
1) Speak Clearly
Being a good witness can be difficult. When you are testifying, try to speak clearly and answer the question that is asked.
The judge will not allow you to go on tangents or elaborate on your own thoughts.
They want you to answer their question and nothing more! Speak up if you need to so they can hear you.
If there are a lot of people in the courtroom, speak loud enough for them to hear but do not shout. Speak slowly and articulate each word so it’s clear what you’re saying.
Answer yes or no questions with one word answers like yes, no, yesterday, etc.
Stay within the question being asked as much as possible without giving away information that isn’t needed for this case.
2) Do Not Volunteer Information
A good witness in court, must be able to answer any and all questions that are asked of them, while not volunteering information.
There is a difference between answering a question and volunteering information.
When you answer a question, you are only answering the question that has been asked of you; when you volunteer information, you are telling the person asking the question something that they did not ask about.
This can lead to getting into more trouble than necessary and should be avoided if at all possible.
If you have to volunteer information, make sure it is relevant to the case.
If it isn’t relevant then it will only confuse people and may even hurt your case.
The best way to avoid this situation is by simply waiting until you are being asked a question before answering it.
3) Dress Appropriately
Dressing appropriately shows that you’re taking this process seriously. When you show up for your court date, wear clothes that are neat and clean.
You should also dress professionally, wearing clothing that reflects a professional work environment.
Think about what you would wear to an interview with your boss or a presentation at work.
Dressing appropriately can also demonstrate the seriousness of the crime for which you’re testifying, like appearing in formal attire if the crime is murder or sexual assault.
In addition, dressing respectfully communicates respect for both the victim and the judge.
For example, when someone testifies against their spouse or ex-partner, it might be appropriate to wear something other than white (which may symbolize innocence) and instead go with black.
However, be sure to avoid any outfits that might distract from your testimony because they will make it difficult for people in the courtroom including journalist focus on what you’re saying.
4) Arrive Early
Being an effective witness starts before you even walk into the courtroom.
Arriving early will allow you to get a feel for the court and get more comfortable with your surroundings.
This includes going to the bathroom, sitting in the jury box or gallery, and getting familiar with any potential exhibits that may be used during your testimony.
These extra few minutes can make a world of difference when it comes time for your testimony.
You will have time to collect yourself and ask any questions the judge may permit.
Another important reason for arriving early is so that you can find out what order witnesses are testifying in, so as not to accidentally speak over someone else’s testimony or experience cross-examination from another lawyer.
It also gives you a chance to meet other witnesses who are testifying at the same trial.
5) Be Prepared to Testify
When you are called to the stand, you have a responsibility to the jury.
You have an obligation to tell them what they need to know so they can judge the case. In order for them to be satisfied with your testimony and believe what you say, there are some things that make you a good witness.
First, it is important not just for you but for everyone else who is testifying on behalf of either side that you be truthful and accurate when answering questions from either side.
Second, if you don’t understand a question or if something about it doesn’t make sense to you, don’t guess at the answer.
Third, do not argue or disagree with any other witnesses’ testimony unless given permission by the court.
Finally, remember that as long as you give all of this information sincerely and truthfully (and without jumping ahead), then everything will work out well.
6) Tell the Truth
A good witness will always tell the truth. This can be hard when your answer may not be the one that gets your friend off the hook, but it is important.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure what to do, it is best to say as little as possible and let someone else take over.
It is also important for a witness to give as many details about what happened as possible so that there is more than one person’s account of the events that transpired.
When testifying, try to stay calm and speak clearly; speaking loudly or slurring words can make people believe you are lying.
7) Use I Statements
It is important for a witness to be an I and not a you. This means that they should describe what they saw, not what the person they are testifying against did.
The witness should answer all questions posed by the lawyer, judge or jury member.
It is best if the witness speaks directly to them and not anyone else, like their spouse or someone else who is seated at the table with them.
If there are any questions that they do not understand, they should ask for clarification before answering.
8) Avoid Arguing with the Attorney
It is important not to argue with the attorney. Arguing can cause a witness to be perceived as uncooperative and makes it difficult for attorneys and judges to know what the witness may say next.
If there is an argument, one should try not to get emotional or use strong language; this will only hurt the witness’s credibility in court.
Instead, calmly tell the other person how they are making you feel and why you disagree.
Do your best to remain calm during arguments so that you are taken seriously by those around you.