I have Rules of Engagement for clients: for their conduct around the court-house, in the court-room, and on the witness stand. If you've done a case with me you have the ROE. They need it, and typically the more senior the client the more the need for ROE. So, it's timely of Angus to talk about:
Jim McElhaney, On Good Behavior: A witness who speaks simply and directly looks pretty good to a jury, ABA Magazine, February 2009.
Does this sound familiar?
Pencraft stood up and started screaming at Angus. Then, as quickly as
he started, he stopped and sat down again. “I won’t do that in the
trial,” he said. “It’s just that I feel strongly about this case.”
“I’m perfectly capable of total self-control.”
I replayed the
question and Pencraft’s answer. “You dodged the question because you
didn’t like it, and instead you answered some other question that
wasn’t asked.”“I’m just being a good lawyer,” Pencraft said.I smiled. “No, you’re not,” I said. “You’re being a bad witness.
You’re supposed to answer the questions, not argue the case. Whenever
you’re evasive or argumentative, you lose credibility, and the judge
and jury won’t trust anything you say.”
You’re the witness and you actually objected to a perfectly proper
question. You do that in trial and Judge Mudrock will cut you some new
“You may have a plausible defense in this case,” said Angus, “but
playing those kinds of games can cost you the trial. Let your lawyers
do the objecting. You just answer the questions.”