Monday, May 1, 2017

Help Your Witness Past an Angry Knee-Jerk Response

Witnesses may be angry for a variety of reasons. Regardless, an angry witness rarely testifies convincingly at deposition or trial. When dealing with such a witness, start by acknowledging that your witness’s anger is understandable and legitimate, but unfortunately, detrimental to effective testimony. Remind your witness that you are the advocate, ready, willing and able to be righteously indignant, angry or whatever else is appropriate when it is appropriate. Then work with your witness to assure solid testimony.

With the aid of video-taped role play, drill your witness on the critical “Answer the question asked.” The higher the emotional stakes, the more important it is for your witness to really listen to the question, and respond appropriately and dispassionately. As best you can, replicate the stress of cross-examination to help your witness learn how to maintain their composure during deposition or trial.

One way to do that is via the “breathe” technique, whereby your witness learns to breathe, as in take a deep breath, before attempting to answer an emotionally charged question. If necessary, to then ask to have the question repeated, which again, buys the witness time to settle his/her emotions, such that the response is more reasoned and level-headed.

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