Control Your Emotions
Video Transcribed: I want to talk a little bit about testifying as a witness, either in your own case or another case. My name is Brian L. Jackson here with Dads.Law, I am a father’s rights attorney in Oklahoma. We’re going to talk today about being a witness and how to be a good witness.
To start with, being a good witness means being observant and keeping a mental note of things. If you need to write down things, that’s okay. Having notes to refer to is okay. It’s a good idea, actually, so you’ll remember when it’s important.
For example, if you’re in the midst of a nasty situation with the girlfriend, the wife, or even another family member, be a good witness. In other words, try to remember dates, times, where you were standing, where she was standing, exactly what you said. If you need to, keep a journal.
For example, let’s say you’re having problems at custody exchange. You need to be a good witness by writing notes down as to what happened. How late was she? What time was it when she got there? Where was she standing? Where were you standing? What did you say? What did she say? The exact wording, so you can be a good, convincing witness. That’s the first step.
Now, the next thing is, this one is kind of obvious, but I think it bears saying, be truthful. Always be truthful. I mean, number one, it’s a crime to lie in court under oath. That’s called perjury. Yes, perjury is prosecuted in the state of Oklahoma, so don’t lie.
But even if you’re not prosecuted for a crime, if you get caught in a single lie in court by the finder of fact, and if they think you’re lying on one thing, it can lead them to conclude that you’re maybe lying in other things. There’s an old saying in the legal profession: false in one, false in all. If you’re found to be lying in one area, it could potentially completely discredit anything else you have to say. So, be truthful.
A third tip, never speculate. This goes back to that whole thing about being truthful and credible. If you don’t know the answer to a question, like legitimately don’t know the answer to a question, you’re better off to say, “I don’t know,” than to guess and guess wrong.
Now, I’m going to tell you, if you do know the answer and don’t want to say it, “I don’t know” is not a good idea, because if it’s something that you would obviously know the answer to, and you say, “I don’t know,” that makes you look like you’re trying to hide something. I don’t know is more or less when you really don’t know, because it’s better than speculating.
Don’t ever speculate, because if you’re wrong, here’s the reality. You may have guessed wrong and may legitimately not know, but the trier of fact, that is your judge, your jury if you’re in front of a jury, although normally in family courts you’re not, they don’t know or they don’t know you well.
They don’t know if you answered incorrectly because you guessed and guessed wrong, or if you answered incorrectly because you were telling a lie. It’s easy enough to conclude it’s the latter, especially if it’s something where you would have a reason to want to lie about it. So, don’t ever guess, because you may be seen as a liar.
Another tip, when you’re answering questions in court, don’t answer immediately even if you know the answer. You want to listen to the question and then I always suggest to my clients, you want to count to about five before you start to answer.
The reason is, this forces you to listen to the question and really think about what’s being asked. There is a tendency to assume a question calls for a certain response, but it may not actually call for that response.
A good example, if someone asks you, “What color is the sky?”, now you could truthfully answer, “Well, it’s kind of cloudy today, which would imply it’s gray.” But that’s not really what was asked. The call of the question was color.
The correct way to answer that, and certainly if you’re in court, the correct way to answer that is to say blue. Or if it wasn’t blue, because it was cloudy, gray. Don’t try to explain, because the question doesn’t call for an explanation.
You can simply answer blue or gray or it was green because there’s a tornado coming. You understand my point. Now, if they ask you about the weather, then you talk about the weather. But if they ask you for the color of the sky, you talk about the color of the sky only.
The idea does not go off into extraneous information that wasn’t called for. One, there may be a reason the question was framed that way, especially if it’s from your own lawyer. Two, you may open a can of worms.
Either it could get an objection like relevancy, or you may open a can of worms into something that might not have come up otherwise, but because you decided to go talk about it, now it’s coming up. So, listen to the question and answer it carefully.
The last tip I would give you as being a good witness is control your emotions. Again, the court doesn’t know you, and you’re up there testifying. Let’s say you’re feeling righteous anger, and you show righteous anger, you think you’re showing righteous anger, the court could interpret that as you being defensive or having something to hide.
So, you want to control your emotions. Also, when you’re emotional, you’re not thinking clearly, and that’s a separate problem. It can cause you to blurt something out. It could you to act foolishly. I’ve seen people get angry and use profanity in court. Bad idea. It should go without saying, but it’s a bad idea.
Actually, there is another major point I want to connect to this and that’s about volunteering information, which again, it’s about self-control. Don’t volunteer information ever in court when you’re a witness.
Again, questions are framed in a specific way for a specific purpose. Yes, if you’re getting cross-examined, you’re going to want to tell your story and explain answers. Don’t do it. Let your lawyer worry about what goes into the narrative in terms of what the court’s going to hear. Let your lawyer worry about that. That’s their job.
Your job, as a witness, is to tell the truth and to answer only the questions that are asked. Don’t volunteer information. Don’t speculate. Don’t get too emotional. The old cliche line, “Just the facts, ma’am.” That’s how to be a good witness.
If you are looking at having to testify in court for any reason whatsoever, you need a good lawyer. One place you can go and get a good men’s rights lawyer in Tulsa is Dads.Law, where fathers are not disposable. Guys, we’ll look out for you.