Four Things that a Witness Should Know about Testifying at Trial
Getting a witness ready to testify at trial requires hours of time spent preparing and practicing. While there is much for a witness to know about testifying at trial, you’ll find a list below of some important aspects of testifying that your client should understand before getting on the stand. Contact a skilled Arizona court reporter for support as you depose witnesses and experts and otherwise prepare for trial.
- Explain a few basic rules of evidence: The rules of evidence aren’t always intuitive, and it can be difficult to follow rules that don’t make obvious logical sense. Explaining rules of evidence that will have a direct impact on a witness’ testimony will better help them understand why they can or can’t share certain information they may think is relevant. For example, giving a brief explanation of hearsay can help them understand why they can’t repeat a story that another person told them to prove the facts contained in the story.
- Explain how testimony is presented carefully to tell a specific story: Your witness may have a long list of facts that they feel are important for the jury to hear. While a client should feel that their story has been accurately told to the jury, it’s important for them to understand that more information isn’t always better. Make sure your witness understands that it’s your job to tell a coherent story through the testimony the jury hears, and offering every fact relevant to the dispute may provide too much information through which a jury would need to wade to determine a good outcome.
- Make sure the testimony feels natural and personal: With all the practice and rehearsal that goes into preparing to testify, your witness could end up feeling as though they’re reciting lines of a script while they’re testifying. Your witness should be prepared with good answers to the questions they’ll face on direct and cross-examination, but make sure these answers feel natural, honest, and personal. This will make the witness feel comfortable with what they’re saying, and it is also likely to make these answers easier to remember.
- Explain the ways that opposing counsel will attempt to elicit an emotional reaction: Your opposing counsel is very likely to try to elicit frustration, embarrassment, and anger in your witness as a way of getting them to say something they might regret, or to appear dishonest or flustered to the jury. These tactics can blindside a witness and result in knee-jerk emotional outbursts and defensiveness if they haven’t prepared themselves in advance to expect to be baited and maintain composure regardless.