How To Testify: Trial Tactics Used by Opposing Attorneys

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Which should not bother you

Attorneys may:

  1. Mispronounce or mistake your name. You should ignore it and answer the question just asked. Before taking the witness stand, you will be asked by the clerk to state your name and spell it for the court. The attorney who continually mispronounces your name will lose credibility with the court.
  2. Try to get you into an argument so you lose your composure. Your polite demeanor and calm disposition will win points with the court.
  3. Deliberately mistake some of your previous testimony and try to get you to agree with their version. Listen to the question and do not allow the attorney to put their words in your mouth Risk the lawyer’s frustration; remember, they’ve got it wrong, not you. 
  4. Quote deposition testimony and then ask you, “Did you say that?” Before you answer, ask to be allowed to read the portion of the deposition page. Do not just read the quote. Read before and after to make certain the quote is not taken out of context. 
  5. Cause you not to look at the judge and courtroom, making you focus your attention on the attorney while you are testifying.
  6. Get up from their seat and move to a position that will cause you to stare at them while answering questions. When this happens, include the judge and the courtroom with your eye contact.
  7. Question your recall or biases. Anticipate this, acknowledge anyone can be mistaken, but say you do not believe you are mistaken in this case. Remain positive.
  8. Attack your credibility as a witness through an error you could have made in your testimony and/or exploit your failure to recollect the facts of the case. Remain calm in this situation; innocent mis-recollection is not uncommon.