When it comes to preparing the expert witness for a trial, the whole practice is something of an art. It may look easy on television and in the movies, but working with expert witnesses can be tough for even experienced attorneys and trial consultants. Witness preparation is invaluable to tilting a case in your favor. Check out these witness preparation tips to find out how you can prep a witness.
Work with the expert witness.
Don’t assume everything is going to fall into place; have a plan. Hiring a consultant is also a good plan, but either way, you’ve got to put the time into your witness. Not enough time and you may risk having a defensive or distasteful witness because you didn’t spend enough time with them to have this insight.
Choose or encourage them to be polite.
A polite and knowledgeable witness is perceived as more reliable and even in their evaluation of things.
Put your finger on the problem.
Most witnesses have something about them that can be a problem. Your job is to find it and figure it out. Whether they are arrogant, overshare, undershare, offer poor answers, seem hostile, shift, fidget, or have distracting nonverbal behavior, the one tic that they have may be the one thing that loses you the case.
Hire a consultant.
A consultant will keep your relationship with the expert witness on good terms because they are delivering the feedback, not you. This keeps your witness on your side and maintains that trust that is so essential to a witness testifying in a way that positively benefits the trial.
Don’t encourage them to tell the whole story.
Less is more here. Jurors are trying to piece together a picture of what happened and what is the most likely course of events. Talking more than necessary as a rule is never good and may lead the expert witness to say something damaging to the case.
Assure them that they don’t have to seem like an expert.
Witnesses may think that they need to be a different version of themselves while on the stand. Encourage them to speak normally and avoid trying to fluff up their vocabulary or manner of speaking.
Answer the question posed of them directly.
Expert witnesses will usually give the best answers for the trial when they are coached to always answer the question they were asked. Often witnesses don’t answer the question directly and may give a long-winded answer that ends up being meandering and confusing. The simpler it can be said, the better.
If you don’t know, you don’t know.
Teach your witness that it’s okay to say “I don’t know” if they don’t know the answer to a question.
Give homework to your witness, such as having them practice mock conversations they think they might have the next day. Recommend that they get a good night’s sleep, and practice speaking in front of a mirror or to a room full of people. Also have them watch themselves to see if they move in a repetitious or fidgeting manner.
Get your ‘headline’ out to the jurors.
Much like an essay, establish your thesis, and then support. The jurors will remember the point you’re trying to make even if they don’t hear a word after the first ten minutes.