For those who don’t know, which is probably most of you, I have been employed as a crime lab analyst for more than 20 years. As part of my job I am occasionally called to testify in court. After a while I found I was generally able to read people in the hall waiting to testify. Victim’s family, defendant’s family, witness for the prosecution, etc.

So I was called to testify regarding a chemical analysis I did in a child abuse case (the case itself isn’t funny and I will not discuss it). I am sitting in the hall reading a magazine, waiting to be called when a woman sits next to me. I glance over and quickly gather she is probably a professional, maybe an expert witness like me. I continue reading my magazine (Backpacker as I recall) and after a couple minutes she asks, Is this your first time? I look at her puzzled and ask, First time for what? I genuinely have no idea what she is talking about. She says, to testify. I reply, no, I have testified 65 times (It was 60-something at that time, now it is 91). She looks at me surprised and asks, what do you do? I tell her I am a crime lab analyst. I ask what she does. She tells me she is a pediatrician. I realize she is the doctor who treated the child. I tell her being a crime lab analyst is nothing like on tv. She says the same for doctors. I mention we do have one thing in common with the TV shows though. She asks, what’s that. I reply, I am very good looking.

You’re all laughing now, and thinking how brash I am. But I was being helpful. She was clearly nervous having never testified. So I offered her some pointers. She thought I was going to make another crack. I tell her, you know the basics, tell the truth, be professional, etc. Here is what no one tells you. First, if the attorney asking questions tells you they want a yes or no answer, it is only a suggestion. Answer any way you want. Simply tell them the whole truth requires more than a simple yes or no. However, if you can answer with a simple yes or no, you should. The jury is tired and doesn’t need you going on about how smart you are. Just because you have the fancy degree doesn’t mean you have to use all the big words. Second, if you don’t know the answer, say “I don’t know.” It’s only happened to me once but it can happen that an attorney will make you say I don’t know 5 times in a row in an effort to make you look less than intelligent. They know what they’re doing, after 2 or 3 times you know, and by the 4th I don’t know the jury has figured it out and is not impressed. If it is something you should know, say “I realize I should know this, but it escapes me at the moment.” Third, relax. Only one person in that room needs to worry about going home tonight. As long as you don’t slap the judge, that person is not you.

Edited by PerryMK (04/04/21 03:35 PM)