Preparing to be a Witness

Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Gaal on “Preparing to be a Witness in Court”

What should you expect if you are called upon to answer questions under oath in a deposition or to testify as a witness in court?

Points to Remember When Testifying

  1. Dress well and be courteous: Remember the way you dress and present yourself is a direct reflection of you.
  2. Be attentive: Remain alert at all times so that you can hear and understand the questions asked of you. Make sure you understand each question, and then give a proper response. If you do not understand a question, say so. Speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard and understood. When speaking, look at the jury.
  3. Answer all questions directly: When possible, answer questions with a simple yes or no. Never volunteer extra information.
  4. Control your temper: You are at the mercy of the cross-examiner if you lose your temper. Holding your temper, no matter how hard, will make your testimony much more valuable.
  5. Be prepared to wait: It is impossible to know in advance how long you will be in court. Please be patient and remember that the prosecutor has little control over the timing.
  6. If you hear an objection: Stop testifying immediately. Wait until the judge and the attorneys settle the point. They will tell you when to continue your testimony.
  7. Stick to the facts: The judge and the jury want to hear only what you know based upon your own personal knowledge.
  8. Relax: Try to remain calm, you have nothing to fear when you tell the truth.
  9. Questions will be asked: The attorneys on both sides will have a chance to ask you questions. Do not let the other attorney upset or confuse you. The prosecutor will object if he or she feels the question is inappropriate.
  10. Review your statement: A year or so may pass before a case goes to trial. This is one reason why the statement you gave at the time of the offense becomes very important. Reviewing this statement will familiarize you with the facts.