How To Testify In Court
Your job as a witness is to tell the court what you know by answering questions. Everyone is nervous. Focus on answering each question asked of you, and don’t be afraid to admit:
- You don’t understand the question.
- You don’t understand a word or phrase (even if it is the word “before” or “after”).
- You cannot remember the question.
- You cannot hear the question.
Follow these steps and your nervousness will vanish.
Before You Testify Before you step into the courtroom to testify, it is important to be familiar with your surroundings to maximize your confidence, comfort and success. The following are suggestions that will cumulatively lead to your success as a witness.
A. What to Wear
1. Dress Professionally: the way you dress gives an impression, whether you like it or not. Studies have shown blue for men and black for women are the most appropriate colors for “looking believable.” Dress conservatively, avoid flashy bright colors, and keep jewelry to a minimum.
2. Dress Comfortably: If you are uncomfortable on the stand, it will show. Do not wear anything that is going to make you feel abnormal or out of place.
3. Courthouses have security scanning, so… leave knives, guns and machetes at home or in your car… and allow extra time to go through security lines.
B. What to Bring
1. Nothing unless you are asked to by the attorney. No coffee cups No bottled water – the court will give you water if you ask. Nothing in your hands to distract from your job. But…put a clean handkerchief in your pocket so you will be prepared for a runny nose or tears
2. Coats and purses should be left at the counsel table. Courthouses are public places with many unsavory types who may forget what is yours and what is theirs.
C. Familiarize Yourself with the Courtroom
1. Before the trial starts, walk into the courtroom to familiarize yourself with where the witness chair is located and the path you will have to take to get there. This enables you to walk directly to the stand in a forthright manner and be sworn in.
2. Witnesses (not parties) are usually excluded (a sign will reflect this) from the courtroom. Wait in the area near the door so the clerk, or your counsel, can easily see you when you are waiting to testify.
D. Before Court and on Breaks from Testifying
Act professionally and appropriately. Engage in small talk, if appropriate, but always remember that every unfamiliar face is a set of ears that may work against you.