Testimony from alleged eyewitnesses and expert witnesses can make or break important civil or criminal cases. Adverse witnesses and their testimony must be carefully scrutinized before they destroy any hopes of achieving a favorable outcome. Some attorneys go so far as to hire private investigators to dig up dirt or break down the stories of witnesses, but the most effective tool an attorney has to overcome adverse witnesses is the deposition. However, expert deposition preparation and courtroom witness training can prepare and important witness to anticipate and properly respond to these questions. In addition, expert witness training can prevent the testimony of an expert witness from not being heard.
Following are ten questions a fully trained and dedicated attorney should ask during the deposition of an adverse, or hostile, witness in any type of case. Because of the nature of these questions, it may only take one favorable answer from the witness to destroy his or her credibility.
Is this your first deposition?
If this is not the first deposition for the witness, follow-up questions may ask for specifics concerning prior testimony delivered in court. This testimony can later be researched for impeachable evidence.
Have you ever been arrested?
Opposing attorneys are certain to object upon asking this question, but it is usually valid and sustained by the judge in most cases. If the answer is yes, the question should be followed with another: Were you convicted? Convictions for crimes of moral turpitude may be enough to cast doubt on the testimony.
Have you met or talked with the opposing attorney prior to this deposition?
This question can be followed up with specific questions aimed at discovering whether the witness is truly independent.
Have you seen the plaintiff/defendant on occasions before the events in the case transpired?
This question is useful in uncovering prior relationships between the witness and the plaintiff or defendant.
What did you do to prepare for this deposition?
This is a trick question that can be asked to discover what the witness believes to be his or her weak suits in delivering testimony. Any documents that were reviewed, places visited or people met by the witness could lead to grounds for impeachment.
Have you made any statements, written or oral, including to journalists or on public websites, concerning the events in this case?
Before asking this question, Internet and database searches should be obtained to disprove any false replies.
Did you read or listen to any statements from other witnesses or view any photographs or diagrams regarding the case before this deposition?
Hearing statements made by other witnesses or viewing evidence regarding the case may affect the judgment of the witness.
Do you have government issued identification, such as a driver’s license, with you today?
If the witness has identification, preferably something with an address on it, ask to see it, and read it aloud so that the information is entered into the record.
How did you first meet your attorney?
This question may lead to previous legal issues, lawsuits or divested interest that can be used to cast doubt on the credibility of the witness.
Was anyone else in the room when you met with your attorney?
If so, the witness may have already waived his or her right to attorney-client privilege.
Asking the above questions should be standard procedure during the deposition of an adverse witness. However, many trial attorneys never learn this in law school or while studying to pass the bar. Understanding the importance of these questions is only learned through experience or courtroom witness testimony training, specifically deposition training and expert witness training.