How To Testify: Managing the Questions—DO NOTS

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May 20, 2021

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.

Knowing how to answer questions, the ability to control your reactions, and knowledge of proper courtroom behavior can help lead to your success and comfort as a witness.

Managing the Questions – Don’ts

  1. Do not be arrogant of combative. Let the attorneys get as nasty as they want. They are more than likely trying to “bait you.” Stay cool and answer the questions.
  2. Do not be afraid to disagree with the attorney but do it with grace and tact.
  3. Do not make fun of the attorney.
  4. Do not start to answer the question until you are sure the attorney is finished. Wait for them to stop thinking, think about the question (in your head), pause, think about your answer, then begin speaking.
  5. Do not nod or shake your head. Your answers bust be audible, loud, and clear. If you give a non-verbal answer the judge will stop and ask you to respond verbally so the answer is recorded on the record.
  6. Do not allow yourself to be talked into false testimony or affirming incorrect statements. If someone makes a statement and asks whether you agree or disagree with that statement, be sure you consider the ENTIRE statement and everything that is part of the sentence before deciding whether you agree or disagree.
  7. Do not try to cover up mistakes. If you make a mistake, admit it. Nobody is going to hold it against you, but they will certainly hold it against you if they think you are lying.
  8. Never memorize your testimony. Know your facts, but do not say things word for word. You will look rehearsed and then will not be able to handle cross-examination (where the questions are out of sequence).
  9. Avoid looking at your attorney while answering questions. This looks as if you are asking for help and the court may interpret this as a damaging question, even though your answer makes perfectly good sense.