Tuesday, January 22, 2008

10 Tips for Witnesses: Don't Give These Answers!

After recently spending several days in court on various matters involving testimony, I feel like I should share some fairly common statements that should no longer be used in court. I understand that some of these are the way people may talk in a conversation, but they were not uttered in conversations. They were spoken in a formal court hearing which operates under different rules than regular social discourse. The following statements are guaranteed to not impress or convince a judge or jury in court:

1. "I have all the records at home/in my truck/at my office, etc. and I can bring them in." Sorry, but you need them right now and you can't stop court to go get them.

2. "Everybody knows that ______ is true." That's not acceptable proof. 'Everybody' needs to testify.

3. "I got it off the Internet, so I know it's right." Think again!

4. "I can get letters from lots of friends/co-workers/relatives/neighbors saying that." Have you heard of hearsay?

5. "I could have gotten the records/pictures/witnesses, etc. if I had just known that I needed them." You should prepare in advance with your lawyer and follow his or her instructions about what you need to bring.

6. "I have it all on my computer." If your computer's not with you today in court, it does no good.

7. "I can bring in lots of witnesses to prove that." If so, you should have brought them in.

8. "They're all lying about me." Sometimes conspiracies happen, but more often it seems likely to be true if a number of live witnesses come into court and say the same thing.

9. "I may have plead guilty, but I didn't really do what they said I did." Sorry, but you can't argue that for a guilty plea. If you were convicted after a trial, you could say you didn't do it and that the jury was wrong, but that still won't get you anywhere. A conviction is a conviction.

10. "Do I have to answer that?" I love to hear that from an opposing witness. That always grabs my attention. 99.9% of the time, the answer is "Yes". I want to find out what you're scared of.

Bottom line: You lose credibilty and waste time by using these answers. Anyone about to testify in court should talk extensively with the lawyer for your side to prepare for your testimony. Remember, this is more than a simple conversation over coffee. There are rules and formalities imposed by the court system and you must observe them.

No comments: