Six Witness Rules


Via Beaumont, Texas criminal-defense lawyer Ryan Matuska (one of my former UHLC trial ad students now fighting the good fight), the Six Big Witness Rules:

#1 TELL THE TRUTH – ALWAYS!

NEVER GUESS. IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER, JUST SAY SO. SAY “I DON’T KNOW” OR “I DON’T REMEMBER.” ABSOLUTELY DO NOT GUESS OR MAKE UP DETAILS THAT YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT. ONLY SAY WHAT YOU KNOW. EVEN IF IT SEEMS LIKE A SMALL DETAIL, DON’T GUESS.

#2 LISTEN TO THE QUESTION ASKED

IF YOU DIDN’T HEAR THE QUESTION, MISSED PART OF IT, FORGOT IT, OR DIDN’T UNDERSTAND IT, PAUSE. ASK THE LAWYER TO REPEAT THE QUESTION OR LET HER KNOW YOU DIDN’T UNDERSTAND IT. CHANCES ARE THE JURY OR JUDGE DIDN’T EITHER.

#3 ANSWER THE QUESTION ASKED AND THEN STOP. DON’T RAMBLE ON ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE. THIS ONLY CREATES MORE QUESTIONS. ANSWER WHAT WAS ASKED AND STOP THERE.

SOME QUESTIONS SEEM UNFAIR BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO NARROW. RELAX. JUST ANSWER WHAT WAS ASKED, NO MORE. REMEMBER THERE ARE TWO ATTORNEYS. AS YOUR ATTORNEY, I WILL EXPAND THE ANSWERS DURING MY QUESTIONING. DON’T FEEL OBLIGATED TO EXPLAIN A NARROW ANSWER. LET THE ATTORNEYS DO THAT.

#4 WHEN AN ATTORNEY MAKES AN OBJECTION, STOP TALKING IMMEDIATELY. BE POLITE AND RESPECTFUL. THE JUDGE WILL MAKE A RULING AND QUESTIONS WILL BEGIN AGAIN.

#5 BE ON YOUR BEST BEHAVIOR. REMEMBER THAT EVERYTHING YOU DO IN THE COURTROOM IS WATCHED AND JUDGED BY THE JURORS. DRESS NICE. CALL PEOPLE BY THEIR LAST NAMES. REFER TO THE JUDGE AS “YOUR HONOR” OR “JUDGE.” BE POLITE (“YES, SIR,” “YES, MA’AM.”).

#6 BREATHE. YOU WILL BE NERVOUS. WHEN PEOPLE ARE NERVOUS THEY HOLD THEIR BREATH. IT’S A REFLEXIVE RESPONSE TO DANGER. TELL YOURSELF TO BREATH. BY BREATHING YOU WILL NATURALLY RELAX. JUST PAUSE AND TAKE A DEEP BREATH.


0 responses to “Six Witness Rules”

  1. 7. Never try to outsmart the prosecutor. Don’t try to guess why they’re asking the question. Just answer the question as asked.

    8. Don’t help the prosecution. If you’re asked a question, but think that they really meant to ask a different question, don’t help. Answer the question as asked. If they want the answer to a different question, let them ask it.

    9. Don’t let it bother you that they way a question was asked will result in an answer that you don’t like. After cross-examination is over, we get another chance to correct the testimony. If it’s a problem, we’ll fix it. Don’t you try to fix it.

    10. No matter how much you may hate the prosecutor or cop, don’t get angry. Nobody looks credible when they are angry.

    SHG

  2. 11. Don’t feel the need to fill in silence. Answer the question and STOP. After you have answered the question, if the courtroom is silent, do not fill in the silence with any other comments.

  3. When an attorney objects, keep quiet and listen to the objections, the response and the judge’s ruling. Even if it is a sidebar most witness stands are near the judge.

    I tell my clients to watch their behavior even outside the courtroom. Anyone could be a juror, even the guy next to you at breakfast.

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