You may be called to be a witness in a trial or a hearing. As you prepare please think about the following:
- Take a deep breath and tell the truth. You are on the stand to relate facts - not your opinion or an exaggeration. Listen to each question carefully and respond clearly and fully. If you need clarification, ask for it. You can respond by saying " I do not know" or "I do not remember". Try not to ramble. If you need to take a moment to collect yourself, ask for it.
- Dress appropriately. Come to court clean, well-groomed, and conservatively dressed. Stick with formal job interview clothing to the best of your ability.
- Answer questions. Avoid volunteering information unless an attorney asks for it directly. Answer each question honestly and completely, and avoid saying anything else. If a simple yes or no would suffice, then that is all you need to say. Questions should be answered with a "Yes, sir" or "No, sir" and always address the Judge as "Your Honor". If asked if you spoke with the Prosecutor about your testimony, admit that you met and spoke about the case and he told you to tell the truth.
- Act seriously and respectfully. Court is not the forum for speaking out of turn, laughing uncontrollably, or using slang terms or complex jargon. Wait patiently until you are called to the stand before you say anything about the case. Do not chew gum.
- Remain calm. You cannot help anyone if you lose your temper on the stand. In fact, it could get you into trouble with the Court or harm the credibility of your testimony. Show respect for everyone in the courtroom, even if you have strong feelings about the case.
- Avoid talking in absolutes. Unless you clearly remember something in detail and could not be mistaken, avoid saying things such as, "That is everything that happened." Human memory can be tricky. Use phrases such as "That's all I recall" or "That is what I remember from the event right now".
- Modify your statement, if needed. We all misspeak on occasion. If you believe that your statement did not accurately reflect what happened, correct it as soon as possible. Ask if you can correct something that you said, and give a reason for the mistake. Getting flustered on the stand is perfectly normal.
The most effective witness is one who can tell their story comfortably. Just tell the truth and be yourself. Everything else will take care of itself.