What are some examples of how to not appear judgmental (or worse) as a lay witness in court?
- Tell the !@#$% truth, not stories you hope will dupe the court into doing what you want or what the party who called you as a witness wants. Tell the truth. It’s your legal obligation (and if that’s not enough to persuade you, perjury is a crime).
- Meaning: state what you know, not what you were told, not what you believe, not your opinions, not lies. Just what you personally witnessed.
- Listen to the questions posed to you, so that you know what information is being elicited from you.
- Simply answer questions, and answer questions simply.
- Most questions are yes/no questions, which means that the only proper possible answers to a yes/no question are: “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know.”
- Do not, do not, do not try to answer yes/no questions with rambling stories.
- Do not, do not, do not try to answer with rambling stories questions that ask you to describe a thing or event. As Sgt. Joe Friday said (constantly) on Dragnet: “Just the facts, ma’am.”
- Study in advance what it’s like to testify in court (you won’t, but you’ve been warned just the same). I don’t use the word “prepare” as a synonym for “contrive”. Don’t “prepare” to lie. Do prepare by understanding the process and the dynamics of being questioned, under oath, on the witness stand, in court (or in a deposition), by an attorney. The more prepared you are to testify as a witness, the less surprised, confused, nervous, and jittery you’ll be. The better testimony you will give. Read articles and books about testifying in court. Watch YouTube videos of people being questioned in court and in depositions. Understand this process. If you think you’re ready to testify without preparing in advance, you’re a fool.
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