In legal parlance, the word “testimony” refers to giving oral evidence when under oath, with the intent to establish the veracity of facts. In every trial, there is a witness who will be called to the stand and his evidence taken. The evidence that the witness provides is used to “testify” whether the accused actually perpetrated the crime or not.

Testifying in court

  • Receiving the subpoena
    If you happen to have been the victim or a witness to a crime, you will receive an official summons from the court. Although you are under no obligation to answer the lawyer’s questions during the initial interview, it is obligatory to attend any summons made by either the prosecuting or defending lawyer when called to take the stand.
  • Taking the oath
    The witness makes a commitment to the court of his intent “to tell the truth and nothing but the truth” by making a solemn promise to his deity or holy book.
  • The testimony
    Witnesses are called to testify in court for all types of crimes. Both the prosecutor and the defendant’s group will have a list of witnesses each, which they need to submit to the judge a few days prior to the trial.

The witnesses are called to the stand and are questioned by lawyers from both sides and their evidence is recorded. In countries where the jury system is present, the jury evaluates this evidence and comes to a decision. In countries where there is no jury system, the judge takes the final decision after analyzing both sides of the argument.

Preparing to be a witness

Here are a few tips that you need to keep in mind when preparing to give testimony at a court of law:

  • Review and organize all the evidence you have given in any interview you have had with either the police or the lawyers
  • Go through all the evidence you have given before to refresh your memory of all the facts and to avoid any discrepancy between your earlier and current statements
  • Have a discussion with your lawyer before the trial and clarify all points
  • Do not memorize your statements, as it can look fake and untrue to the jury
  • Dress formally, but comfortably
  • Arrive on time and do not discuss your case outside the courtroom
  • Look the jury in the eye and tell them the truth
  • Be polite at all times
  • Correct any mistakes and misinterpretations posed by the opposition
  • It’s okay to say that you don’t remember
  • Be calm and controlled throughout the proceedings