Preparing witnesses for deposition or trial
I recently read an article by Katherine James who is a communications expert. In talking about witnesses and preparing them for examination she referred to a concept called "The Form." She says it is a concept of Dr. Martin Peterson, a trial consultant from Lincoln, Nebraska. She describes it as a process the witness should go through with regard to every question asked of the witness Instead of the usual advice lawyers give to witnesses, she recommends witnesses be given the advice to follow this process. The process consists of the witness asking themselves these questions before responding:
1.Do I understand the question? – If, not say "I don’t understand your question."
2.Do I know the answer? – If not, say " I don’t know the answer to your question."
3.Do I remember what the answer is? If answer was once known, but can’t be remembered "I don’t remember:"
4.How do I want o answer the question? The witness reflects on the question before starting to speak and then answers directly
Ms James also had advice for the witness on other subjects.
- How to sit? The witness should sit up with their hands on the table clasped lightly
- Where to look? The witness’s should not look in the eyes of the lawyer but the hollow of the throat if a woman lawyer, the lips fo the lawyer if there is a hearing problem or the knot of the tie during the question. Then turn to the reporter or if a televised deposition, the lens of the camera and answer the question
Demeanor of the witness, of course, should be calm and direct. The dress should be appropriate to the occasion. I thought her suggestion on an analytical approach to answering questions was worth considering.