In order to ensure that we are doing everything we can to succeed in the courtroom, it is necessary to spend some time on witness preparation. This means working with each witness involved in the case to make sure they are comfortable, confident, and prepared to put us in the best possible position in court.
1. Witness Assessment
We will first sit down with the witness from the point of view of a scrutinizing juror and look for common weaknesses. Things like looking at the counsel after each question, mannerisms that may seem to indicate lying, and poor posture can all work against the witness’s credibility.
We may even use videotape to see how the witness comes across on camera. Video can work to exaggerate certain tendencies and diminish others, and it is our goal to make sure the witness looks confident and sincere on the witness stand.
2. Breaking Down Witness Barriers
It would be foolish to discount the psychological stress placed on a witness during trial. As each witness is unique, each one may suffer from different psychological barriers. Expert witnesses can often be insecure on the stand, and therefore may show signs of forgetfulness, uncomfortable or nervous laughter, or eccentric behavior. An employee witness may fear for his or her job and therefore alter facts or pretend to have forgotten key information that they are actually sure of.
With proper preparation and coaching most of these psychological barriers can be worked through, leaving the witness confident and persuasive.
3. Practicing With the Witness
Practice makes perfect. While it may seem impossible to sit down with each of the possibly dozens of witnesses involved in a case, we will make a serious effort to coach each one in their areas of weakness. We will watch video playback, critique the witness, instruct and then practice again. We’ll be tough on the witness and try to emulate cross-examination, while simultaneously giving the witness an understanding of the latitude and flexibility required to maneuver through tough questioning. It’s a balancing act that can only be achieved through repeated practice.
No matter how well an expert knows his or her field and can verify important information to strengthen our case on the stand, it all becomes moot if the jurors dislike the witness. It’s important to remember that while we are in court, we are all still human beings who react to rudeness, condescension and arrogance the same way as we would in any other part of life. Nervousness and poor recollection are forgivable; jurors understand and can empathize with the stress put on the witness. But attitude and smugness can leave a long lasting sour taste in the mouths of the jurors. Kill them with kindness, confidence and warmth.
Parrish Law Firm, PLLC works with northern Virginia residents who have suffered from personal injuries and are looking for fair compensation. Our dedication, knowledge, and professionalism give us an edge in court. Call us today at 703-906-4229 or send us an email.