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Diagram of the Criminal Justice Process
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Court Proceedings & Information
Testifying: Testimony Tips
  • Speak clearly and loud enough to be heard (there are two microphones on the witness stand one that records and one that amplifies your responses)
  • It is best to look at the person who is asking you the question and then turn to the jury to provide your answer (remember they are our finder of fact and we need to provide them the information that they need in a case)
  • Answer everything with a verbal response “yes” or “no” instead of “uh-huh” or “un-uhh” so the court reporter can take everything down.  If you nod or shake your head I will ask you is that a yes or is that a no just the record is clear as to your response.
  • If you demonstrate something with a hand gesture such as distance or length, I will ask you something along the lines of “you are indicating with your hands a distance of 6 to 8 inches”.  This is so the record is clear.
  • Typically, it is best not to be combative or hostile with the defense attorney- remember they are doing their job and further be aware that the jury is watching your every move.
  • If an objection is made by either side ‒ don’t answer the question but let the Judge make a ruling on the objection- if the objection is overruled by the Judge you can answer the question.  If the objection is sustained the lawyer needs to come up with a new question.  If you don’t remember what the question was or whether or not to answer the question simply ask the lawyer to rephrase the question or can I answer that question.
  • A common objection is hearsay and basically that means what someone else said or told you- if that person is not here at the trial to testify then we typically cannot have you testify to what that person told you with certain exceptions.  It is best to testify to what you did- you can testify that I talked to this person and based upon this conversation I did this (insert action taken here).  By doing this, you never said what they told you but you can explain your actions- the jury will usually be able to follow why you did what you did based upon your response and kind of figure out what you were told.
  • Many times these events have occurred a long time ago- unfortunately, the workload and other reasons allow a case to gather some age before it goes to trial- if you don’t know the answer to a question remember that I don’t know or I don’t recall is a perfectly acceptable response if that is the true response to a question posed to you.
  • Make sure you listen to the questions of the defense attorney and pause for a brief moment to reflect on why they are asking that question. Then answer the question to the best of your ability.
  • Be careful not to be too short or too long in your answers- both ways can create problems.
  • Take your time and relax. Remember that what you have to say is very important!

View our glossary to see definitions of legal terms you may encounter during the judicial process.