Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for law enforcement and corrections officers.
Your integrity and your honesty are the most important tools in your tool belt when you are testifying.
Be polite. A courtroom is a place for formality. Refer to the judge as “your Honor” and use Ma’am or Sir to address the attorneys.
Give your full attention and respect to the defense and the prosecution. As a witness, your role is to answer questions from both sides to help the jury determine facts.
Wait until you hear the entire question before answering. If two people are talking it is difficult for the judge, the court reporter, and the jury to hear you.
Take time to formulate your answer before speaking. Some attorneys ask objectionable questions on purpose. Pausing will give the other attorney time to object if needed.
If a question can be answered “yes” or “no” please do. If the attorney wants more, they will ask for it. Answer the question asked and don’t volunteer extra information. There may be a good reason why you’re not being asked about something you feel is important. When appropriate, tell the attorney if you feel something needs to be explored further.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so.
If you don’t understand a question, don’t answer it. Ask the Court to have the question repeated or clarified.
Don’t guess. Ever. Some attorneys love to get witnesses to guess about critical facts.
Don’t be led into agreeing with something that isn’t completely correct.
Never lose your temper or argue with defense counsel. Some attorneys will try to bait you into acting unprofessionally. If you do, you lose credibility with the jury. Self-control is critical.
Tell the truth. Don’t “fudge” or stretch or exaggerate. Even if you know the answer hurts the case or makes you look bad.
Finally, don’t forget that your reputation preceded you. And your reputation will follow you. Your integrity and your honesty are the most important tools in your tool belt when you are testifying.
And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.