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Tips for Testifying

*Testify about the the facts, not your opinions or conclusions.  Unless you are specifically asked for your opinion or conclusions about a scene or events, or behavior---keep your testimony confined to the things you have observed, heard, or other personal knowledge.

*Allow the lawyers and the Judges to resolve any objections.  During any objections made by lawyers to the questions or answers----be quiet and allow the Judge to decide, to “rule” on the objection.  The Judge will tell you when you can answer a question after any objection.  Sometimes the lawyers will approach the Judge’s bench and discuss things with the Judge---this is called a “sidebar” and it cannot be heard by the jury.  Once a ruling has been made, if you have forgotten the question, ask the lawyer to repeat the question.

*Ask for clarification. If you do not understand the question, or if you do not hear the question—say so and ask the lawyer to repeat it or restate it.

*Answer all questions to the point.  If you can answer a question with a simple yes or no, do so.  Answer only the questions asked.  Do not volunteer more information. 

*On cross examination. Do not let the defense attorney upset you.  It may seem at times that he/she is trying to pin you down, but he/she has the right to test how many facts you know and remember. 

*Tell what you know truthfully. When asked a question do not look at the Judge or lawyers to decide whether you should answer.  Just answer the questions unless there is an objection by a lawyer.  Tell the truth about what you know and never make something up because you are nervous or otherwise anxious about testifying.

*Follow the directions of the Judge.  If you are told to remain available to testify, you must do so.  If you are excused from the witness stand, you may step down and leave.  If you are given any other direction by the Judge, you must follow that direction.

*Remember that the trial is a public proceeding.  The jurors, other witnesses, the lawyers, and the public will be in public places in and around the courthouse when you are testifying.  Conduct yourself as if you were in the courtroom when you in and around the courthouse.  Your conduct and words are important.

*The role you play is a critical one. As a witness you are an important part of the justice system.  Your service is appreciated and the sacrifice that you make in testifying is valued by the lawyers and the public.  Thank you for your truthful testimony and your time.