Testifying in court can be challenging depending on the case and the opposing counsel. As a private investigator you will be tested on the stand. Here are a few tips to help:
1. Dress appropriately - Should not have to say this. However, there have been a few that fail to dress appropriately for their court appearance. Men need to wear business suits. Don't wear loud ties. Women should wear business suits as well. Both should make sure their hair is neat, clothes pressed and clean. Navy blue suits, a white shirt are a good choice. Court appearances are not the time to wear your pullover shirts with a company logo and BDU pants! Nor is it appropriate to wear your favorite, flowery hawaiian shirt!
2. Prepare in advance - Review your case file days in advance. Work on dates and times. One investigator suggested reviewing the case from a chronological perspective. Why? Opposing counsel may try to jump around and confuse you. Having a great grasp of the case in a chronological order of events will help you avoid being confused.
3. Remember your audience - When you are testifying in a jury trial, your audience is the jury. Look at counsel when they ask a question, then turn to the jury and answer to them. This is out of the ordinary so you may want to practice. Make eye contact and don't become distracted by faces the jury members may make when you answer.
4. Mind your manners - "Yes sir", "No ma'am", are the proper manners to exhibit in court. Just like your parents taught you. Always, always, mind your manners.
5. Not sure what question was asked? - Ask for the question to be repeated. Trying to answer a question you don't fully understand or did not hear completely can cause confusion. Minding your manners simply say, "Could you repeat the question ma'am?".
6. Answer the question asked Only - While on the stand it is important that you answer the question asked. Don't embellish, don't attempt to guess what they "are really asking". Counsel may ask clarifying questions if there is confusion. Just state the facts that are relevant to the question. Avoid giving a dissertation.
7. Keep your cool - If counsel becomes agitated, or aggressive, maintain your composure. Remain calm. Answer calmly. If you become angry in your responses the jury will notice and it will probably not create a good impression in their minds. One way to maintain your composure is to take a few seconds before responding. Think of the question asked, and answer calmly. This can be really tough for many investigators.
8. Don't be funny - You have probably heard the story of a detective that was once asked in court, "How far can you see at night?". The detective thought, then answered, "About 239,000 miles. that is how far the moon is from earth." Funny, but not an appropriate answer.
9. Pause when asked a question - It is important that whenever you are asked a question that you pause for a few seconds. Why? counsel may object to the question. Allowing them time to respond may be critical to the case before you answer.
10. Poker face - One investigator shared that she always wears her best poker face, trying to appear and sound like "Sgt. Joe Friday". She cautioned that there may be some rare exceptions. (Not sure who Joe Friday is? Watch the video below.)
These are just a few tips. Feel free to share your own.
Pro PI staff
Experienced professionals and trainers.