Regardless of whether you are facing a criminal case or a personal injury case, there are certain things you can do to prepare for trial. Trials can be intimidating to someone who is not accustomed to going to court on a daily basis.
While nothing can ease your anxiety entirely, here are some tools that you can utilize to make things a bit easier.
Review Your Case
When you prepare for trial, it’s important that you take a few minutes in the weeks before court to review your case. If you are involved in a personal injury case, this means reviewing your deposition, your original accident report, any written statements or submitted documents, answers to your Interrogatories, and other discovery responses to which you certified were correct answers. If you are facing criminal charges, this may include reviewing a statement you gave to the police, as well as police reports and the criminal complaint.
If you notice an error or misstatement, be sure to inform your attorney of this error. If your attorney knows of the error or misstatement, they can fix it. If they unaware and unprepared for it, and the other side discovers the error, the results can be significantly less favorable to you.
Meet With Your Lawyer
It is essential that you meet with your lawyer to discuss the case when you prepare for trial. Your lawyer has extensive experience in litigation. You should understand that the form of the questions that will be presented to you will vary based on who is asking the question. On direct examination, the rules of evidence require the questions be open-ended, as in the following:
- Tell us what you did on the morning of October 8, 2015.
- Who was with you?
- How did you feel?
- Where did you go next?
- Why did you choose that route?
Cross-examination questions, on the other hand, are typically closed-ended. They tend to sound like this:
- Did you go to the corner of 4th and Main Street?
- Was that on October 8, 2015?
- Were you with Bill Anderson?
- Afterwards, did you go to the Safeway on the corner of 4th and G Street?
- And you did that by going north on 4th Street?
You may note that cross-examination questions typically call for just a yes or a no answer. The form of the question is based on the rules of evidence. You may be tempted to respond with “Yes, but. . .” or “No, and. . .” Please refrain from doing so. It makes you look argumentative. Understand that once you have given your direct and cross exam, your lawyer will have another chance to ask you questions. This is your opportunity (and your lawyer’s opportunity) to go back and supplement the record, correct the record, or make the record more complete. If your lawyer doesn’t go back to a certain topic, that’s okay, too. Remember that your lawyer knows what is important in your case and will do their best to highlight those facts.
Consider What to Wear
Fair or not, people will judge you on your appearance. The morning of your trial is not the time to discover that the suit you were planning to wear doesn’t fit, has a tear in it, or needs dry cleaning. One of the things to consider when you prepare for trial is what you will wear. Try your outfit on. Make sure it is clean and well fitted. Some guidelines that may help when making your decision include the following:
- When it comes to your skin, less is more. Skirts should be at least knee length. Sleeves should be long, not short or sleeveless.
- Consider a blazer or jacket.
- Stay away from loud colors and big patterns.
- Keep jewelry to a minimum.
Consider how you would dress for a professional job interview.
Mind Your Words
When you testify in court, a court reporter will be writing down everything you say. However, there are certain words that are considered nearly impossible to record correctly. In the weeks before the trial date while you are taking the time to prepare for trial, pay attention to the words you use. If you use words like “uh-huh” and “uh-uh,” the court reporter will likely interrupt you to ask if you meant “no” or “yes.” If you nod or shake your head, your attorney will ask you to answer out loud. Make it easier on yourself (and the trier of fact, either judge or jury), by being mindful of your words.
Also, take some time to consider your speaking patterns. If you are frequently told that you talk too fast to be understood, practice speaking more slowly. If you know that you talk with your hands, practice speaking with your hands clasped in your lap. You want to be yourself when you testify, but if you keep getting interrupted by the court reporter, you will likely get frustrated. Frequent hand movements could also be very distracting to the jurors, preventing them from focusing on the information you are testifying to. This is why preparation is essential.
Plan Your Trip to the Courthouse
Take some time to locate the courthouse. Determine what route you will take to get there. Determine how long it will take to get there. Finally, determine where you might park your car. Consider the fact that your first choice may be unavailable. Parking lots – even at courthouses – can fill up. Locate a second alternative. All of this should be built in to the time it will take you to get from your home to your courtroom.
More and more courthouses across the country are installing one or more security measures. You should keep in mind that it is not uncommon for many cases to be scheduled on a single calendar. You will not be the only person headed to the courthouse. Build in an extra 15 to 20 minutes to account for the time it will take you to go to the courthouse and locate the courtroom where your trial will be held.
Be Prepared to Wait
When you get to the courtroom, your case may be the only one on the calendar, or it may be one of many. It is not uncommon for it to take hours for your trial to begin — even if yours is the only case on the calendar. Be prepared to wait. Think about how you might occupy yourself while you are waiting for your case to be called.
Learn More About How to Prepare for Trial
Whether you are dealing with a criminal case or personal injury case, facing the possibility of trial can be daunting. To learn more about how to prepare for trial, contact the Law Offices of Greene & Lloyd, PLLC today.