12 Days of Christmas: Our Top 12 Tips for Giving Courtroom Testimony
The truth is in your hands! More than one million cases were held in magistrates’ courts in 2020 alone. Many of these cases involved expert witnesses who explained difficult concepts for jurors and magistrates.
Your testimony can be the difference between acquittal and conviction. For you to make the most effective courtroom testimony and to ensure that justice is served, you need to follow a few steps.
How should you behave in court? How can you answer questions and give accurate information? What should you never do while you are testifying?
Answer these questions and you can perfectly fulfil your responsibilities as an expert witness. So, here are 12 essential tips for testifying in court.
1. Review Courtroom Etiquette
Even if you are familiar with testifying in court, you should study courtroom etiquette before your testimony. It never hurts to have a helpful refresher. Try to sit in on a hearing that your judge or magistrate is running so you can understand how they conduct themselves in the courtroom. Take notes on what types of answers they like, and what they don’t.
Read a guide on what to expect coming to a court so you’re fully prepared. You can also ask for tips for testifying from a judge not involved in your case if you would like extra reassurance.
2. Understand Your Legal Rights and Limitations
As an expert witness, you cannot offer your own opinion and claim it is fact. You must base your testimony on science that is generally well-accepted, and you must explain your methods and thought process during your testimony.
You should talk to a barrister or solicitor so you know what answers you can and can’t give. If you’re nervous about violating the law or courtroom procedures, hire an expert witness preparation coach to train you.
3. Study the Case
Gather as much information about the case as possible. Understand how your testimony will elucidate a confusing point or procedure. Document your own process of researching the case, the surrounding issues, and consider taking written notes you can introduce as evidence in the trial.
4. Dress Properly
You should wear formal attire before going to court. Wear full sleeves, comb your hair, and trim any facial hair. You can wear a coat if you’re feeling cold, but select one that will not clash with the rest of your outfit.
5. Take the Responsibility of Testifying Seriously
Being asked to testify as an expert witness is a serious responsibility. Avoid saying anything about the case to anyone besides your lawyer.
If you feel you cannot give your testimony due to a conflict of interest or another shortcoming, tell the judge as soon as possible. You can be excused if you have a valid legal reason. Testifying while you have a conflict of interest can lead to a retrial or a delay.
6. Be Clear
Your testimony will be useless if the judge or jury cannot understand what you are talking about. Use simple language and keep your sentences as short as possible. Do not talk over anyone, especially when someone is objecting to a question.
Be as specific as possible with your answers. If you are answering a multi-part question, mention what part you are addressing before you give your answer. If you need to qualify your remarks, make the qualification and explain the factors that can affect your answer.
7. Use Your Own Words
You can ask a legal professional for help and get expert witness training for yourself. But you should not answer questions based on what you remember from your conversations with others. You should always phrase your answers as you would phrase them in natural conversation.
Do not nod or shake your head to a question. You should speak aloud and make your thoughts known so everyone can understand what you are saying.
8. Take a Moment to Think
You do not have to answer a question as soon as it is asked of you. Take a few seconds to think about what the best answer is and how you can phrase it properly. There is no rush in the courtroom.
Take a deep breath so you are calm and not rushing to speak. You can also take a sip of water if you’re feeling thirsty or dry. This will help you with providing a clear and concise answer.
9. Answer Questions Directly
You may be asked uncomfortable or difficult questions. Do not get emotional, and do not dodge the question you are asked. Give the most honest answer you can and ask for clarification if something seems confusing.
10. Never Volunteer Information
Do not meander while you are answering a question. Stay on the subject and stop talking once you’ve stated everything that you think is helpful. Do not talk about a different subject, even if you think it would be helpful.
11. Do Not Exaggerate
Exaggerating or overstating your conclusions can hurt your credibility and cause you to contradict yourself. If you are not sure of something, say that you are not sure. If you think a lawyer is twisting your words or exaggerating your position, mention that when you are answering a question.
12. Be Positive
Though you should avoid exaggerating, you should also put as much authority into your answers as possible. Avoid saying “I think” or “I guess.” Bring up statistics, scientific theories, and processes that corroborate your perspective, and refer to other facts brought up in the trial if you can.
Deliver a Strong Courtroom Testimony
Before you deliver a courtroom testimony, you need to take some preparations. Study the case, talk to a legal professional, and get training so you deliver clear answers. Before you answer any question, think it through so you are using your own words.
Never make guesses, exaggerate your information, or avoid answering questions. Give the full extent of your knowledge and acknowledge your limitations.
If these tips are hard to grasp, you should get courtroom testimony preparation. Sytech Consultants helps businesspeople and professionals prepare for giving testimonies. Contact us today.