Tips on Courtroom Testimony
Get that extra edge over your opposition
In my 10 plus years of testifying, I have made some observations regarding courtroom dynamics and etiquette. I follow some general rules (outlined below). These ideas can help you in providing courtroom testimony whether you are a victim, witness, defendant, litigant or even asked to provide expert testimony. While you cannot expect to win a case based solely on these tips, they are useful and might just give you an extra edge over your opposition. In any case, consult your attorney prior to testifying.
Always be on time
Preferably you should be at least 20 minutes early, more if you need to discuss the matter with your attorney or a prosecutor. Court days are extremely hectic for them and though your case is vital to you, itís just one among many that your attorney is trying to prepare for. If you absolutely MUST be late or cannot make your court date, contact the court and/or your attorney to make them aware. This may save you from being arrested on a failure to appear warrant. However, if you do not show up, you are still violating the order and a warrant might be issued.
Dress for court
I canít tell you how many times Iíve been in the courtroom watching a defendant walk in wearing a ball cap, a "wife beater" shirt, cut-off shorts and flip flops. What kind of message do you think this sends to the judge or jury? It tells me that the defendant has no respect for the court and is not taking the matter seriously. Iím not saying that you have to dress in a suit and tie (though it is recommended) but show a little class and the judge will notice.
When the judge enters the courtroom be sure to stand and do not sit until asked to do so. Do not make conversation in the courtroom. If you MUST speak to an attorney or anyone else, whisper. Do not eat, chew gum or drink anything in the courtroom. Avoid bringing your children unless they are involved in the matter at hand. They have a tough time sitting still and quiet during long hearings.
On the stand
Always address the judge as "your honor". Many attorneys address him/her as "judge" but in my opinion this is not as respectful as saying "your honor". Answer questions that are asked of you. Be direct, answer each question completely but do not narrate or offer extra information.
Above all, Do not lie
If you are untruthful, you are comitting perjury and risking jail time. Also, your credibility is at stake. If the judge or jury finds you hard to believe they are more likely to decide against you. Believe me, just when you think you have gotten away with a lie, the other party's attorney will produce some evidence or additional witnesses that proves you can't be trusted.