Answering Questions on the Witness Stand
Be sure to answer each and every question from attorneys for both sides with the same demeanor and courtesy. You may not like how a defense attorney is speaking to you but remain calm and answer all questions truthfully.
Usually the opposing party will asks such questions in order to determine if there may be a possible bias. Be prepared with what these may be and how to handle them.
On cross-examination attorneys will often try and limit you to a “Yes” or “No” answer. If a simple “yes” or “no” will not fully explain your position you need to indicate as such. It also helps to have had a conversation about the prosecutor who called you as a witness about these types of situations. That attorney can follow up with you on re-direct to clear up anything that may have been confusing to the judge or jury by allowing you to explain more fully.
Opposing counsel may also try and ask you very convoluted questions that do not make sense. Do not hesitate to tell the attorney asking you questions that you don’t understand to re-phrase his/her question.
Answer only one questions at a time. Attorneys can get the habit of asking what is called a “compound question” where they are asking you several different questions at the same time. There may be an objection and a judge may instruct that attorney to ask one question at a time, but if that does not happen just stick to answering one question at a time.
Do not let an attorney cut you off before you have finished answering a question. Just politely let the attorney know that you were not finished answering the question.
Do not try and guess at questions or do not know the answer to. Sometimes attorneys will ask questions of experts that are outside of the expert’s expertise. As much as human nature wants you to try and answer the question just simply tell you attorney that the question is outside of your expertise or you just do not know the answer.
Do not offer additional information. Be sure to stick to the questions asked and only the questions asked.