"Under law, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. In reality, just the allegation of sexual abuse can damage relationships forever."
~Defense Attorney Kristin Burkett
Testifying on the Witness Stand
Important things to remember during court when on the witness stand.
By William Tower
Posted July 4, 2006
- Always tell the truth. In saying that you don't always
have to tell all the truth that you know, just the truth. Always go over
with the attorney what questions you should be answering and how to answer
them. It is up to the attorney to fix it if it needs to be fixed. That is
what they are there for. If the opposing counsel can catch you in a lie it
will hurt your case worse than you can imagine.
- Be concise. Always answer as short as possible. This will
disable the opposing counsel from beating you to death with what you stated
on the record. Keep it short.
- Take your time. Do not let the opposing counsel pick up
the speed on what they are asking. Take your time and think before you
answer. There is no rush here. Only creditability in your answer.
- Pause before responding. Look to your attorney and give
them time to object to the question before answering.
- Ask for clarification. If you do not like the form of the
question or the wording, ask the attorney to repeat the question because you
did not understand it.
[Hint] They will usually not ask
the same question the same way. And you do not let them get on a roll that will
hurt your case. They will lose track of where they were going.
- Listen carefully. Listen to the wording of a question; if
you don't know how they are using a word, you have a right to ask them to
clarify what they mean. (Again, you don't understand.)
- Respond then stop. Don't and I repeat Don't get caught with
what they term a "pregnant pause" (this is where the attorney will
look at you as if you didn't give a full answer and expect you to keep talking).
Don't fall for this one. You are not there to please the opposing counsel.
- Take a break. You have a right to discuss things with your
attorney. Even if you are on the stand your attorney may ask for a brief break.
You have a right to counsel.
- Be honest with your attorney; tell them everything even if
it hurts to tell them. Because if you don't your attorney they can not be
ready to object and or have a defense worked out for something to cover
[Hint] It will be what you did not
tell your attorney that will bite you hard, and could endanger your case, causing
you to lose your case because of it.
- Communication with your attorney. Your Attorney does not
need 100 calls a day. That said put it down on paper and get it all together
to deal with it all in one phone call. Weed out the things that do not amount
to a hill of beans, and those things that are not an issue to the court. (Like
the person that went through the paper work and noticed that they had the
spelling of the child's name wrong. Or the 11-pages of typos in the documents
and you expected the case dismissed because of this. This is not an issue.) Do
not your attorney how bad your caseworker is. (They have heard it all before.)
William Tower, President
American Family Rights Association
This is not to be taken for legal advice, just as good
advice/information. You will need an Attorney to get Legal advice. The laws
in your state may vary from these, which are typical of California law.