Tips for Testifying

PREPARE – Before you testify, try to picture the scene, the objects, and people there, and what happened as best you can.  Do not try to memorize what you are going to say.  You may make notes to assist you in your preparation for trial; however, generally you will not be permitted to refer to your notes while testifying unless the notes were made at the time of the event you are testifying about or shortly afterwards.  If notes are used to refresh your memory, then the attorneys are entitled to review the notes you use.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY – The way you dress and present yourself is a direct reflection upon you.  You want to make a good impression.  Neat, clean, conservative, and comfortable clothes are suggested.  Shorts are prohibited.

NEVER – Smoke, chew gum, or eat or drink anything while in the courtroom.  Caps and hats must be removed before entering the courtroom.

LISTEN CAREFULLY – Pay close attention to each question you are asked.  Take your time and think about your answer.  If you do not understand a question, ask to have it rephrased or repeated.

SPEAK CLEARLY – Speak clearly and address your answers to the Judge hearing the case.  He/she is naturally interested in hearing what you have to say and what has happened to you.

BE TRUTHFUL – Tell exactly what you recall and what you know.  If you do not know the answer, say “I don’t know.”  Do not guess, speculate, or assume.

YES AND NO ANSWERS – If the question requires a “yes” or “no” answer, then answer “yes” or “no” unless your answer cannot be fully understood without an explanation.  Analyze the question and be sure that the question can be completely answered by “yes” or “no” before answering “yes” or “no”.

ANSWER ONLY THE QUESTIONS ASKED AND THEN STOP – Do not volunteer information.  Answer only the questions asked and then stop.  Stop talking immediately if an objection is made by one of the attorneys or if the Judge interrupts.

ANSWER RESPECTFULLY – Be polite, firm, and clear in your answers, even if the questions are hostile or upsetting to you.

REMEMBER – If the defense attorney makes you feel uneasy or nervous, remember, he or she is just trying to do his or her job.  You are not on trial.  The defendant is on trial.  You are the one in control.