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A version of this article first appeared in TRIAL magazine.

Professionally Prepared for Witness Preparations?

You can't adequately prepare a witness unless you first treat his or her psyche

by Amy Singer, Ph.D.

In a symphony, one false note - the drum roll that shouldn't have been, the flat trumpet call at precisely the wrong moment - can ruin an otherwise lovely performance. It's the one musical element the audience all will remember.

A trial is like a symphony. The lawyer is the conductor; the witnesses, the orchestra; the jurors, the audience. And just as in a symphonic performance, one false note served up by a key witness can kill the lawyer's case. The lawyer may conduct the case brilliantly for days, weeks, even months. Then, without warning, one bad witness can make the otherwise exemplary case explode like a rotten egg. One bad witness, one false note, and suddenly, everything is upside down. It could be the witness's overall confused and contradictory testimony, his or her excessive (thus questionable) nervousness, a damaging but unnecessary admission, even the witness's own disagreeable personality. Whatever it is, this one false note often ends up to be the primary negative factor upon which the jurors decide the case - the key trial element they all remember.

Masterful lawyering is essential to courtroom success. But in an era so heavily biased against lawyers, skeptical jurors often distrust lawyers, and tend to disregard attorney oratory - they want to hear what the witnesses have to say. Indeed, witness testimony and demeanor are usually the primary factors upon which jurors base their decisions. Powerful opening statements and dramatic closing arguments are of little account if the witnesses are weak and/or unappealing, and their testimony flawed, contradictory, and damaging.

Attorneys often fail to focus on witnesses

When tightly contested cases don't settle and instead go to trial, witness testimony often proves to be the deciding factor regarding who wins and who loses. Despite this well-known fact, attorneys seldom provide witnesses with the attention they deserve.

A major complaint by plaintiffs today, according to the Florida Bar Association, is, "My lawyer never has enough time for me." This is odd. In most cases, the client will be the attorney's key witness - and no one knows the case better than the client. (The case is often the single most important factor in the client's life. Research indicates that many clients dream about their cases!) The client many times will intuitively understand the problems of the case, along with its solutions. And although he or she is anxious to reveal these special insights and knowledge, the attorney often times is too busy to listen.

The truth is that attorneys would try cases without witnesses if they could. When it comes to their cases, attorneys want (indeed, need) to be in control; but witnesses, being human, are not always subject to control and direction. Attorneys find this situation very frustrating, because it means that witnesses are liable to say anything in court. For the attorney, the average witness can often seem as a dangerous grenade with the pin pulled out, ready to explode.

Additionally, it is the attorney who plans, builds, and presents the case, a complex, difficult, and laborious construction. Often, he or she doesn't want the pesky little client/witness interfering with the grand design.

This fear of, lack of respect for, and inattention to, the client as witness manifests itself most clearly when it comes to witness preparations. By their actions, many attorneys seem to regard this critical activity as almost a relatively minor sideline to the main trial preparation effort.

In many cases, for example, junior associates, even paralegals, are assigned primary responsibility for witness fact-gathering, along with witness preparations for deposition and courtroom testimony. Why is it a surprise that the delegation of these key tasks to assistants often leads to trouble at trial time?

The film "A Few Good Men" dramatically illustrates this point. Tom Cruise plays a Navy attorney defending two Marines accused of murder. In one scene, he flies into a manic rage because the inexperienced lawyer assisting him with witness fact-gathering failed to secure vital information from the defendant about his whereabouts at a critical time - information which came out in the most damaging manner earlier during cross-examination. Worried that the case has just blown up in his face, a drunken Cruise rants and raves uncontrollably at the shocked assistant for failing to draw out all the key facts during the fact-gathering session with the witness. But who is more seriously at fault in this situation - the assisting attorney, or the lead attorney, as played by Cruise, for his own failure to invest more importance in, and focus to, the witness fact-gathering/preparations aspects of the case?

If witness preparations are not handled adroitly, numerous problems can develop during deposition or trial - "skeletons in the closet" that no one learns about during witness preparations, but surface like stink bombs during deposition, or in the courtroom; extreme nervousness on the part of the witness during testimony, thus tending to damage his or her credibility; the propensity of the witness to reveal too much during cross-examination, or to get tripped up during cross and offer contradictory testimony; and many others.

Indeed, there are 1,001 different ways the witness can shoot himself or herself in the foot while testifying. If not adequately prepared, far too many witnesses need to be helped off the stand after testifying - the poor witnesses don't have any feet left, and most of their legs are gone, too!

Witness preparations - vital to courtroom success

Since witnesses play such a critical role in the courtroom, attorneys must elevate witness preparations to a far more pivotal element of their overall trial planning and preparation activities. But in order to do this effectively, attorneys should first consider the underlying dynamics of witness preparations.

Witness preparations is about people - who they are, what they think and feel (and fear), what makes them tick. Most importantly, witness preparations is about how people perform in stressful, difficult, and demanding situations. If the witness has psychological hang-ups, these definitely will come out during depositions and courtroom testimony - usually to confound the witness, and to damage his or her testimony.

During witness preparations, it is therefore incumbent for the attorney to first understand the psychology of the witness. Once the attorney has gained this vital knowledge, he or she can then better deal with the witness's psyche - i.e., address the witness's psychological strengths in regards to depositions and courtroom testimony, and also try to minimize the witness's psychological weaknesses.

The psychological edge

More and more, attorneys are turning to trial consultants formally trained in psychology to help them prepare witnesses for deposition and trial. (When dealing with witnesses in a professional capacity, licensed psychologists can claim and are granted a privilege regarding confidential information revealed to them.) Such witness preparations assistance by a trained psychologist/trial consultant can be invaluable in discovering witnesses' personality types, along with developing successful techniques to deal with each.

The trial consultant trained in psychology will also know how to get those ever-present skeletons out of the closet during witness preparations, so as to minimize the damage they can do later. Plus, he or she will be armed with an entire repertoire of techniques to help the witness overcome stage fright in order to deliver the most effective possible testimony during deposition, or on the stand.

The psychologist/trial consultant also will be professionally able to help the witness project his or her personality in the most positive possible light. This is absolutely essential with juries. Numerous studies, plus my firm's own 16+ years of jury research, indicate that witness likability is of even more critical importance to jurors than witness credibility. If jurors don't like the witness, they have a tendency to tune out what he or she has to say. If, on the other hand, jurors like the witness, they will often disregard credible and highly incriminating testimony against him or her. The William Kennedy Smith and 0. J. Simpson trials provide clear evidence of this bedrock propensity on the part of jurors. (Although the charismatic Simpson never took the stand, it is clear that many of the jurors, just as many Americans, felt very favorably toward him.)

To sum up, the psychologist/trial consultant can help the witness overcome the customary fears associated with testifying in court by employing various professional techniques to essentially bolster and buttress, and thus to "free up," his or her psyche. As a result, the witness will be far more receptive, psychologically, to advice, suggestions, and recommended techniques that he or she should employ to effect the most convincing possible testimony during deposition and while in court.

Assisting the witness along these lines can be a complex professional task. Indeed, it involves nothing less than helping the witness successfully address and overcome his or her own internal doubts, guilt, and fears. Such emotional catharsis can only be achieved by a licensed therapist utilizing sophisticated psychological counseling treatments and techniques. It is extremely difficult for the witness to testify to maximum advantage without such professional assistance.

Trial-tested witness preparation techniques

Witness preparations should be designed to help the witness: maximize his or her likability with the jurors; offer strong, effective, and relevant testimony (research shows that after "likability," "relevance" is the most important factor for juries); reduce nervousness while in deposition or on the stand; improve speaking style, along with poise and physical presence; mentally organize and have readily available all necessary information and/or knowledge; and, in the case of expert witnesses, illustrate depth of learning and expertise.

Another key goal of witness preparations is to raise the consciousness of witnesses regarding the dynamics of depositions and in-court testimony. Witnesses need to know exactly what to expect during depositions, and while they are on the stand. They should realize that much of the deposition process, and of cross-examination, is a mind game (and a word game); and that the way the opposing attorney wins is by tripping up the witness to make him or her look bad.

This means that, among other things, witnesses must learn not to volunteer information, and to be as brief as possible in their answers. Witnesses need to practice their testimony so it becomes second nature for them to answer questions with tightly circumscribed responses: "Yes," "No," "I don't know," "I don't understand the question," and "I don't remember." In the courtroom, brevity is best.

Also, witnesses should understand that when they take the chair, they have every right to insist that opposing counsel carefully parses his or her questions so the witness's answers cannot be intentionally misinterpreted. For example:


Ms. Smith, do you consider yourself a hard-working employee?


That depends on what you mean by "hard-working."


Come on, Ms. Smith. Everyone knows what "hard-working" means in that context.


I don't agree. People often use the same terms to express different concepts.


Ms. Smith, professional employees at the XYZ Company normally work 50-60 hours weekly. Did you?


I generally worked 40 hours or so each week at XYZ.


Ah-hah! So by the standards at XYZ, you were not a "hard-working" employee.


Let me repeat. I generally worked 40 or so hours each week at XYZ.


You are evading my question, Ms. Smith.


No, I am being fully responsive. I am informing you precisely how many hours I would normally work each week.


I give up. No further questions, your honor.

As the above example illustrates, the attorney clearly hoped to trip the witness up by forcing her to respond to the highly judgmental question regarding the issue of "hard-working" with a "lose-lose" answer. If the witness states that she is a "hard-working" employee, the attorney can attempt to cast her as a liar on the stand. If, on the other hand, the witness answers that she is not a "hard-working" employee, she will have presented herself to the jurors in a negative and potentially damaging way. By refusing to answer according to such arbitrary (indeed, loaded) semantics, the witness avoids this dilemma.

What about expert witnesses?

In terms of expert witnesses, witness preparations need to focus on techniques to help the expert become a good teacher regarding the interpretation of the data he or she must relate in court. (Jurors pay attention to and remember what they learn). Another important goal is to find some light-footed way the expert can introduce his or her professional credentials without seeming boastful. (Information concerning how this can best be accomplished is presented later in this article.) The preparation session(s) also should focus on ensuring that the expert does not stray from limiting testimony to his or her particular area of expertise.

Use metaphors and analogies

Expert witnesses should learn to use metaphors and analogies to explain key points to the jurors. Such powerful mental imagery taps right into the subconscious minds of jurors. The following example illustrates this point.

During a dry condemnation case in which I participated, an appraiser was testifying in court as an expert witness for the landowner. He was able to quickly capture the interest, attention, and imagination of the jurors - and more important, seal the outcome of the trial - through the use of an astute analogy.

The expert witness stated that, for the plaintiff, the threat of condemnation "was just like waiting for the other shoe to drop." Shortly after his testimony was concluded, the jurors quickly awarded the landowner the full amount that they had requested as fair market value. The jurors later indicated that, due in large part to the expert witness's clever analogy, they all could personally empathize with the plaintiff, and the worry and sadness they felt about the condemnation of their property.

In short, the witness's crystal-clear image simply knocked the jurors' socks off. Great metaphors and analogies have that special power. They are linguistic branding irons that sear directly into the subconscious so the ideas they represent cannot be removed or replaced.

Experts should avoid long narratives

Expert witnesses should avoid long, rambling answers, Such answers defeat their own purpose - i.e., to educate the jurors. People will tune out a long-winded and boring person after a while and cease to pay attention. Jurors are no different. (This is especially true when it comes to expert witness testimony in court, which often can be highly abstruse, technical, and difficult to follow.)

The way around this problem is for the attorney to break up the witness's testimony through a series of well planned questions, each requiring a focused and concise answer. The effect achieved needs to be as a tennis match - question, answer, question, answer, question, answer. This brisk back-and-forth exchange between the expert and the attorney will help lock the jurors' attention to each separate bit of information being provided.

Indeed, each question by the attorney basically spotlights the expert witness's response to follow as new (and thus important) information. This spotlighting effect is very difficult to achieve by the witness alone through a long, rambling narrative.

Attorneys are familiar with the concept of primacy - i.e., jurors remember best those facts they hear first. By breaking up the witness's testimony through a series of questions, the attorney, in effect, continually re-establishes this all-important primacy effect for each new answer given.

Nervous witnesses are not strong witnesses

One of the biggest problems lay witnesses face is overcoming "stage fright" and nerves, not only while testifying on the stand, but also during deposition. Witness nervousness on the stand is a major problem because it undermines witness likability (it is almost impossible for the witness to project a positive image with the jurors if he or she is a bundle of nerves); and credibility (jurors immediately begin to ask themselves the same question: "What does the witness have to be so nervous about?").

Furthermore, a highly nervous witness can easily become confused during deposition, or while on the stand, and thus fall into the trap of offering up damaging testimony. For these and similar reasons, witness preparations should provide witnesses with worthwhile stratagems and techniques they can readily employ to reduce their nervousness to manageable levels while being questioned.

There are numerous mental exercises psychologists have developed over the years that can help witnesses in this area. While somewhat time-intensive to master, these "cognitive rehearsal" exercises have proven extremely successful in helping witnesses overcome nervousness when testifying. They are always conducted prior to physically putting the witness in a simulated "dress rehearsal" testimony situation.

Systematic desensitization

Some witnesses become virtually paralyzed by the fear of having to testify in deposition. or in court. Unless the attorney can find a way to help such a witness overcome this all-encompassing internal panic, the witness will likely prove to be worthless in court. (Indeed, a witness who is so abjectly fearful of testifying may end up, in effect, willing to say almost anything during cross-examination just to get off the stand.)

While obviously a tough case, this type of witness can be taught to face up to his or her fears of testifying. The psychologist/trial consultant uses classic relaxation techniques, along with hypnotic and similar suggestions, to help the witness selectively and successfully deal with the anxiety-inducing stimuli that he or she associates with testifying during deposition, or in the courtroom.

The least anxiety-producing scenarios are dealt with first, then, progressively, the more difficult ones. This is handled through the employment of imaginative mental exercises relating to the real courtroom scenarios to follow. For example, the witness may be encouraged to visualize sitting by the shore in the late afternoon on a bright, beautiful day; soft, gentle waves lapping; sea birds soaring gracefully overhead; the sun shining; large ships sailing majestically by, and all peaceful and serene. He or she will then be taught how to instantaneously tap into this (or a similar) calming image during the most stressful situations - while testifying in deposition; while taking the stand; while facing the judge, the jury and the lawyers; while answering questions in direct examination; and, finally, while answering questions during cross-examination, and possible rebuttal. Each anxiety-producing scenario will be acted out, over and over, with the witness being encouraged each time to summon up the serene imagery before responding to a specific question.

This type of mental relaxation training parallels especially designed therapeutic techniques psychologists and psychiatrists have successfully used for years to help their patients overcome their fears of flying, of driving, of acting or entertaining on stage, of public speaking, and so on. When professionally administered, such training can work equally well to help witnesses overcome their fears of testifying in court.

Positive imagery

As the witness answers questions concerning the facts of the case, the psychologist/trial consultant continually prompts him or her to envision a series of highly positive responses to each answer provided - "Imagine the jurors applauding as you give them your answer" "Imagine the jurors smiling kindly as you speak", "Imagine the jurors nodding their heads in agreement with what you have to say."

Often these mental training exercises concentrate on responses that may prove to be potentially embarrassing to the witness - e.g., "Imagine the jurors cheering your honesty as you reveal some of your personal faults and peccadilloes."

Over and over, through this carefully structured session (or sessions) of positive reinforcement, the psychologist/trial consultant helps the witness learn to feel at ease while testifying. At the same time, the psychologist/trial consultant is providing the witness with a proven cognitive methodology he or she can quickly call up and draw on for strength when being questioned for real later.

"Psyching-up" strategy

Witnesses who are greatly intimidated by the particular fear of being questioned by the opposing counsel need to find some way to overcome this emasculating concern. One proven way to accomplish this is for the psychologist/trial consultant to help the witness learn how to visualize the opposing counsel as a burlesque character.

While the psychologist/trial consultant asks a series of tough questions that are likely to come up during cross-examination, he or she may first prompt the witness to visualize the opposing counsel asking the same questions in any one (or more) of a number of ludicrous and personally embarrassing scenarios - while the opposing attorney is sitting on the toilet, while trying to juggle blobs of Jell-O, while being chased around the room by a quacking duck, or something equally comical.

The witness is not permitted to respond to any questions until the "goofy goose" image of the opposing counsel is firmly planted in his or her mind. Similarly, the psychologist/trial consultant may ask the witness to answer the same series of questions, then imagine the attorney sobbing uncontrollably at the responses, throwing a temper tantrum and pounding the floor, or reacting in some other silly manner.

The point of these exercises is to help the witness see the opposing counsel less as some all-powerful Grand Inquisitor, and more as just another frail, fallible, and foolish human being - no Perry Mason, but one of the Three Stooges instead. When you can laugh at someone, you stop taking them so seriously. It is important, however, to point out that these mental training exercises are organized not to underestimate the adversarial purpose (and accompanying potential danger) of cross-examination, but rather to eliminate or at least substantially reduce the intimidation factor that may be associated with the opposing counsel.


A common weakness most witnesses share is not paying close attention to the questions being asked, then providing uncalled-for answers that may negatively influence the jurors. In this regard, many witnesses often make the mistake of being far too responsive, even voluble, on the stand. This is due to the fact that, subconsciously, witnesses need to explain themselves to others, one of the most common of human compulsions. (Clearly, this is another strong indicator why it so crucial that a psychologist/trial consultant be employed to help the witness achieve the all-important state of psychological catharsis prior to deposition and trial testimony.)

Witnesses must learn to: 1) listen carefully to the questions being asked of them, and 2) neatly limit their answers to only those questions asked. The psychologist/trial consultant may use various operant conditioning techniques to help witnesses attend closer to the questions, and to carefully confine their responses.

For instance, the psychologist/trial consultant may have a loud buzzer sound every time the witness answers a question that was not asked, or goes overboard with his or her answer. Conversely, the training exercise may be structured as a game in which the witness "earns points" each time he or she answers a question squarely and succinctly.

A variant of these exercises is to instruct the witness to slowly count out loud to 10 before he or she gives an answer. Once the witness has mastered this activity, he or she will then be asked to practice counting silently to 10 before answering. This period of silence, of course, provides the witness time to carefully think about and to plan his or her answers. Plus, it permits the witness's attorney time to raise objections to improper questions during cross-examination.

The repetition of these and similar mental training exercises strongly reinforces in the mind of the witness the importance of paying close attention to the questions being asked, and of tightly controlling the answers being given.

Along these lines, the psychologist/trial consultant will want to alert the witness to be watchful for common interrogatory ploys the opposing attorney may use to try to get the witness to inadvertently (and unnecessarily) expand his or her testimony (e.g., muttering, "Yes" or "And?" or something similar after the witness has provided his or her response, then waiting, expectantly, for more information [the "pregnant pause"]).

Emotional arousal

Some plaintiff witnesses, even though they have or are suffering tremendously due to their litigation complaint, fail to register any emotion when being questioned about their damages. Such witnesses have excessively flat affects. It often proves difficult for the jurors to empathize with them as a result.

For this type of witness, the psychologist/trial consultant often must use intensive clinical counseling techniques to help the individual tap into, and bring forth, his or her emotions (which are definitely present at a subconscious level) in a manner more appropriate to the circumstances. Of course, there is a well-known term for such highly effective professional counseling assistance; this process is known as "therapy."

Although some witnesses have trouble exhibiting emotion in the courtroom, this is certainly not the case for most witnesses. Indeed, trial proceedings can be absolutely devastating emotional blockbusters for witnesses; as such, they can trigger extremely strong emotional responses. People cry uncontrollably at trials. They shout and curse at each other. Sometimes fist fights break out inside the courtroom. This is why the psychologist/trial consultant's therapeutic approach to aid the witness during trial time can be so invaluable. For the fact is that during a trial, the witness - more so perhaps than at any other time in his or life - needs therapy.

Frame-of-reference training

As discussed, the questioning of witnesses is a mind game and a word game. If the witness is not taught the rules of the game, or how to play it successfully, he or she is likely to fail miserably during deposition, or when on the stand. In this regard, competent witness preparations should include special linguistic exercises known as frame-of-reference training.

Opposing counsel knows that if he or she can trip up the witness on the stand so the witness appears to be lying, the jurors will begin to question the individual's credibility. Often it is not difficult for a clever interrogator to plan and maneuver a goal-oriented and carefully directed conversation so as to make the person answering the questions appear not to be telling the truth. To illustrate, consider the following sample exchange:


Has anyone ever given you a loan?




You're positive about that.


Yes, absolutely.


Didn't your father lend you $100 so you could get an apartment when you were just out of college?


Well, uhh, yes.


Money that you were to pay back?


Ummm, that's right.....


So when you said a few seconds ago that you have never taken a loan, you were lying, correct?


Well, I wasn't lying.....


No? What would you call it?

While this Q and A dialogue is painted with broad brush strokes to clearly make a point, it illustrates the problem inherent in trying to speak truthfully, but being in a position to easily be tripped up so as to appear to be lying.

The witness needs to learn that - in the courtroom and during deposition - he or she is the hen, and the opposing counsel is the fox out to get the eggs. The only way the witness can protect the eggs - i.e., his or her testimony - is to carefully answer questions according to what he or she knows right now, remembers right now, is aware of right now, feels right now, or has been told right now.

In other words, witnesses need to learn to strictly confine their answers only to information and knowledge they are currently in touch with and are sure of - and nothing else. In this context, "I don't remember" or "I don't have enough information to answer that question" may be perfectly legitimate responses. The witness must become an expert in knowing how to frame all answers in this carefully qualified manner. So, for example:


Has anyone ever given you a loan?


As I sit here right now, I can't recall any.


Didn't your father give you an apartment loan of $100 right out of college?


You know, you're right. That was over 30 years ago, but now I remember. Thank you!

By answering questions in this controlled but truthful style, the witness automatically inoculates himself or herself against being tricked into committing a faux pas regarding the particular line of questioning. In effect, the witness always leaves room to again answer a particular question, but with a different response, based on new or recalled information. Of course, the witness must learn to use such answers judiciously.

Additionally, the witness needs to answer only according to what he or she can precisely attest to - i.e., the highly concrete details he or she saw or heard. So, for example:


You're saying then that the doctor killed your mother by giving her the wrong medicine?


I saw the doctor give my mother an injection. Immediately after receiving it, my mother begin to clutch her throat and gasp for breath. She then fell to the floor and rolled around, trying to breathe. After a short while her face began to turn blue. Soon, she stopped moving and became silent. The doctor pronounced her dead a minute or so later.

The witness must never infer - this should be left to the jurors. This way, the witness will not get himself or herself into trouble during deposition, or when testifying on the stand.

Regarding this issue of inference, it was stated earlier that - when it comes to experts - one goal of witness preparations is to find a graceful way to introduce the expert's professional credentials and accomplishments without appearing boastful. This is often best handled indirectly, through inference. The following dialogue illustrates this point:


Doctor, you are the author of the 1,500-page book, "Neurosurgery and the Elderly Patient," are you not?

Expert Witness:



And your book is required reading by surgical residents and students in most major medical centers, medical universities, and teaching hospitals in the United States and Canada?

Expert Witness:

That's correct?


When was your book first published?

Expert Witness:



And it has been re-published many times since then?

Expert Witness:

Yes, it has.


How many times would that be, Doctor?

Expert Witness:

Sixteen times, as of its most current printing.


Thank you, Doctor.

The attorney is able to adroitly position the expert witness as a respected neurosurgical authority concerning elderly patients by referencing her book. Note that the attorney does not come out directly and tell the jurors that the expert is a leading authority on neurosurgery in the United States and in Canada. He lets the jurors infer this knowledge from the facts presented.

When should witness preparations take place?

Normally, it is a good idea to prepare the witness shortly before deposition is to take place, and again, directly before he or she is to appear in court. A good rule of thumb is that at least three hours of preparation time should be spent with the witness for every hour of planned testimony, either in deposition or in court.

For most court cases, such comprehensive witness preparations, as organized and conducted by the outside trial consulting/psychology firm, should fit well within the overall trial budget. For instance, an entire day of professional witness preparation activities can be handled for as low as $400. This represents 8-10 hours of intensive one-on-one activity between the witness and the trial consultant.

How should witness preparations be conducted?

As discussed, witness likability is critical to a successful trial outcome. Therefore, witness preparations need to be organized so the witness can learn what areas of personal style, speech, demeanor, and delivery should be worked on and improved.

Often, this can best be achieved through the use of operant conditioning techniques employing mirrors and video cameras. If the witness can see how he or she comes across when giving testimony, then it will be easier for the individual to accept constructive criticism and advice regarding his or her performance and personal style.

The mirror is preferable for immediate feedback. Through its use, the most dramatic changes can occur regarding the strength and effectiveness of witness testimony. The mirror never lies.

The video camera should be used as a follow-up. It can help the psychologist/trial consultant and the witness determine and discuss the witness's specific emotional states at particular points in the testimony - "How did you feel when that question was asked?" "How did you show what you felt?" "Is such expression of emotion useful when testifying?" "If not, let's consider some stratagems that can be employed to help achieve more emotional control."

Jury simulations can be helpful

It is also extremely worthwhile to have the witness practice giving testimony in front of surrogate jurors organized expressly to grade his or her style, demeanor, credibility, sense of personal honesty, and so on. This form of witness preparation is very valuable, not only in helping the witness improve his or her performance, but also in determining what information jurors will most want to hear about and consider relevant.

On the witness evaluation forms used at my firm, for example, we normally ask surrogate jurors not only to "grade" witnesses according to the criteria mentioned above, but also to detail specific other valuable information - e.g., the most relevant thing the witness said, the least relevant thing the witness said, the topic(s) jurors would like to hear more about, the testimony jurors found most confusing, and so on.

Armed with this type of specific data, the attorney will know how to best plan his or her questioning of the witness, what things to stress, what areas to avoid, and what will be most relevant and important to the jurors.

"Crazy Aunt Lizzie"

For many attorneys, the average witness is often regarded and treated almost as a "Crazy Aunt Lizzie"-type character - i.e., a goofy old spinster kept squirreled away in the attic so she won't smash up the furniture, microwave Fido and Tabby, or burn down the house. For the family, keeping Aunt Lizzie locked up and away from the matches, babies, and pets may be a workable strategy. The handsome young suitor calling on pretty sister Polly may never need to know about nutty old Lizzie up in the attic, talking to herself.

But, when it comes to court cases, "out of sight, out of mind" just doesn't work. Sooner or later, the attorney must introduce his or her witness(es) into the trial mix. It is vital, therefore, that the attorney ensure that all witnesses are fully and competently prepared in advance. This

means that when it is their time to take center-stage and testify, they will be able to come across in the most attractive possible fashion, and will provide the strongest and most relevant testimony.

# # #

Amy Singer, Ph.D., is a nationally recognized authority in the field of litigation psychology, and an expert regarding the psychology of jurors and juries and the dynamics of a jury's deliberations and decision-making processes. Dr. Singer is the founder and president of The Singer Group, headquartered in Miami and with offices across the country. The Singer Group is comprised of Trial Consultants, Inc., (jury research and trial preparation); Litigation Consultants, Inc. (case strategic planning and mapping); Trial Communications, Inc. (providing attorneys with specialized services such as "1-800-A JURY DR" and "Dial-a-Jury Reaction"), Port-O-Court, Inc. (the world's only fully-equipped floating mock courtroom), and The Institute for Settlement Sciences, Inc. (settlement intelligence services). Dr. Singer is the co-author, along with Texas trial attorney Pat Maloney, of Trials and Deliberations: Inside the Jury Room, published by Shepard's/McGraw-Hill, Inc. Her articles on jury and trial matters are a regular feature of the legal and business media. Additionally, Dr. Singer is called upon on a routine basis by the national broadcast media to provide informed courtroom commentary regarding prominent trials. Dr. Singer frequently lectures on jury and trial matters before numerous professional organizations across the country.