During a preliminary hearing, evidence suppression
hearing or trial, you may be questioned by the prosecuting attorney
(D.D.A.) and the defending attorney. The following are some pointers on
how to be a good witness.
- BE TRUTHFUL. Never exaggerate or shade your testimony. Just tell the facts, simply and concisely, as you know them.
- FOCUS. Listen carefully to the question. If you do not understand a question, ask to have it repeated.
- DO NOT GUESS. If you do not know an answer do not be afraid to say so. However, if you are sure of your answer say so directly. It's best not to use phrases such as "I guess" or "I believe" when giving testimony in court.
- ANSWER ONLY HE QUESTION ASKED. Do not try to say everything at once or volunteer information that wasn’t asked.
- EXPLAIN YOUR ANSWER, IF NECESSARY. If the answer cannot be answered truthfully and fully with a simple "yes" or "no" you have the right to ask the judge to permit you to explain your answer after first answering "yes" or "no".
- BE PREPARED. Do not try to memorize what you are going to say; try to recall relevant facts.
- TAKE YOUR TIME WHEN ANSWERING. Think about your answer briefly before you speak to be sure it is accurate. This also allows the lawyers to object if they feel the question is not proper. If an objection is made to a question
that you are asked, STOP. Do not try to finish your answer until the judge decides if the question was proper.
- WHEN AN ATTORNEY OBJECTS TO A QUESTION. Do not answer the question until the judge rules on the objection and instructs you to answer the question. If the judge believes the objection has merit, the objection will be "sustained."
If the judge does not believe the objection has merit, the objection will be "overruled." If you are confused, ask the judge for direction.
- REMAIN CALM AND COURTEOUS. Do not lose your temper or become angry, as it may diminish the impact of your testimony.
- SPEAK CLEARLY AND LOUDLY. Always face the person questioning you, and speak clearly enough to be heard by a jury. Do not simply nod for a "yes" or shake your head for a "no."
- DRESS NEATLY AND ALWAYS SHOW RESPECT FOR THE COURT. For example, chewing gum or wearing a hat while on the stand will not be acceptable in court.
BE YOURSELF. The judge, jurors, and attorneys are human and appreciate sincerity.