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American Government
Courtroom Demeanor -
Testifying in Court: the DOs and DON'Ts


Tell the Truth!
Be yourself!
Be natural and use common language.
Try to avoid work related jargon or slang.
Your role is to testify, not to convince the jury.
Speak in a clear tone of voice.
Avoid covering your mouth or resting your chin on your hand while you arespeaking. Speak at a normal rate of speed so that the court reporter and the jury can hear your words.
When asked a question, pause, think about the question and think about your answer before you start talking.
Simple "yes" or "no" answers should be directed to the person who asked the question.
Longer, narrative answers, however, should be directed to the jury (or the judge if a jury is not present).
Answer the questions with a "yes" or "no," if possible, then explain. Be brief and on point if a narrative answer is requested.
Avoid answering any question that you do not understand completely. Ask to have the question clarified.
I do not know or "I do not remember" are valid answers, if appropriate.
"I do not know" means that you do not and never did know something.
"I do not remember" means that you may have known something at some previous time, but do not remember it now.
Use terms like "approximately" when asked for measurements of time and distance.
Avoid appearing arrogant.
Avoid giving the answer to a question until the attorney has finished asking it.
Avoid allowing yourself to be talked into false testimony or affirming incorrect statements.
Listen carefully to each question, and be sure that everything in it is true before adopting it as your own. For example: "Isn't it true that..."
If you realize that you have made an error in your testimony, immediately ask the judge for permission to correct the error.
If your testimony is interrupted for any reason, stop talking. This is especially true when it is interrupted by a question from the judge or counsel's objection.
Avoid being anxious to volunteer information.
If you have any apparent interest in the outcome, your credibility may be reduced in the minds of the jury.
Avoid testifying, reading from or otherwise referring to your report without first asking for permission from the judge to refresh your recollection by looking at it.
Remember that all documents taken by you to the witness stand can be examined by either attorney.
If you are asked to read a document out loud by an attorney or the judge, read it slowly so the court reporter can record your testimony.
Remember that you cannot offer or volunteer your opinion unless you are testifying as a court qualified expert witness.
An expert witness (e.g., a DNA expert) is entitled to express an opinion in the areas of his/her expertise.
Do not be intimidated by the attorneys. They are simply representing their clients. Remember to only answer the question asked of you. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification if you are uncertain about a question.

Speak Up!
Remember that everyone must hear your answers (judge, jury, court reporter, clerk, interpreters, attorneys and clients).
Avoid answering the question with the phrase "I believe..." "I think... or "I am not sure..."
You are to testify only as to what you saw, heard, smelled, tasted or felt, unless you are an expert witness qualified by the Court to give your opinion(s).

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Trial and Judicial System Information
Officers of the Court / Characteristics of a Trial
Courtroom Demeanor / How to Dress for Court
Testifying in Court - The DOs and DON'Ts

Trial Tactics and Tricks Used by Attorneys
Common Trial Objections During Testimony
Courtroom Definitions

(Printer Friendly Version of Info Above)

Class Activity
The Trial of Goldilocks

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