Here at The Perfect Witness, we have five rules that guide our philosophy and our approach to witness training. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take an in-depth look at each of them and examine how they fit into The Perfect Witness’ system as a whole.
First up, we have Rule number one: never lie. It’s number one because it is the most vital to a positive deposition. It’s a pretty basic concept, so we’ll start at the beginning.
A deposition is defined as “the process of giving sworn evidence.” All depositions are conducted under oath, and to lie during a deposition is perjury. Perjury is a criminal offense, and though rare, charges could be filed as a result. This is all very obvious to a lawyer, but may be less so for clients and witnesses. It’s very easy to get caught in a sloppy lie, and doing so could mean losing your case before trial ever even begins.
It’s incredibly easy to get caught in a lie during deposition—even for experienced liars. Lying in a courtroom setting is orders of magnitude more risky than lying in another environment for a few simple reasons. Attorneys have a wide array of documentation at their disposal, and it will only take one discrepancy between the record and your testimony to cast doubt on your story. Beyond that, many are also very experienced in taking depositions, and can tell when things aren’t adding up or being omitted.
It’s always easier for an attorney to put a positive spin on less attractive facts than it is to recover from the blemish caused by a lie. Evidence and circumstances are always more useful when they serve a single narrative. When the truth starts to “diverge,” so to speak, it becomes much more difficult to construct a compelling case.
Also, when a witness lies in what appears to be an attempt to obfuscate certain aspects of the facts of a case, you can bet that opposing counsel will dive at that opportunity and apply even more scrutiny than they would have otherwise.
Instruct your client to be honest—and to be honest when they aren’t quite sure of the answer. “I don’t recall” or “I will have to check” is infinitely less detrimental than a “yes” where there should be a “no” or vice-versa.
Check back in over the next few weeks for our next edition: Rule #2: Always Understand the Question. If you’re ready to put The Perfect Witness to work for your practice, click here to get your free attorney review session!