Skip to Content

What Is Acceptable Regarding Preparing Witnesses for Trial?

Anyone who thinks that lawyers are boring has never spent time with one. Law is a popular course of study for many students who have a flair for the humanities and are eager to show off their skill in writing and oratory; the fact that they get to do it in pursuit of justice is only an added bonus. Most criminal cases do not go to trial, but when they do, it is an opportunity for prosecutors and defense lawyers to display their talent for dramaturgy and to make diverse pieces of evidence tell a story in the most compelling and memorable way possible. By this logic, the lawyer who summons witnesses is the director of the play, and each witness is only a cast member. How much dramaturgy is acceptable before the lawyer crosses the line into interfering with evidence? What advice are lawyers allowed to give witnesses before and during the trial? A Texas criminal defense lawyer can prepare witnesses to give effective testimony at trial and can ask the court to exclude witness testimony that was unfairly obtained.

Dos and Don’ts of Preparing Witnesses to Testify at Trial

Lawyers who summon witnesses to testify at trial must notify witnesses that, when they testify at trial, they will be under oath and that the obligation to answer truthfully is absolute. Lawyers should inform witnesses of the following facts:

· ​The witness must answer truthfully when responding to questions by the lawyer who summoned him or her and to cross-examination by the other side’s lawyer.

· ​The witness may say, “I do not recall,” in response to a question on the witness stand if it is true.

· ​The witness should not speculate or guess about what happened or why. The witness should only say what he or she saw, heard, or did.

· ​The witness should not interrupt or argue with the cross-examining lawyer. That is the job of the other lawyer.

· ​Lying under oath is a crime. If a witness tells a lie on the witness stand, he or she could face criminal charges for perjury. If answering truthfully could cause the witness to face other criminal charges, the witness has the right to plead the Fifth Amendment. Sometimes, the state needs the potentially self-incriminating testimony of a witness so badly that it will offer the witness a plea deal or even complete immunity from prosecution if the witness provides this testimony in the trial of another defendant.

Attempts by lawyers to unfairly influence a witness while he or she is testifying are known as coaching. Some of the most egregious examples include passing notes to the witness during questioning or even kicking the witness under the table.

Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC About Criminal Defense Cases

A criminal defense lawyer can help you establish reasonable doubt about your guilt through witness testimony and can stop the prosecutor from using unfair tactics with their witnesses and yours. Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC, in Dallas, Texas, to discuss your case.