Thursday, April 7, 2011

Should I testify at trial?
Mark Twain once said, "If you tell the truth you won’t have to remember anything." Never is this so true than in the Court of law. I have had an unusually high number of trials lately; most cases simply never get that far. However, with trials comes the inevitable struggle over truth. The most amusing aspect being those people who have decided to lie, but could not commit to it. There is a special place in the Guinness book of idiots for those people, the cover.

Lying never really gets you what you want. At best it gives you a lifetime of worry and covering your tracks. So why is it that we decide to lie so often? Many believe it to be compulsive while some point the finger at shame. I think people are just scared. Scared of what might happen, of what people might think, of what Judges might rule. While these concerns are legitimate it doesn't justify the end.

No matter your situation I ask that you consider your words. Quick responses aren’t always necessary, and many times end up in disaster. Hold tight to the idea that a person is only as good as their word, and try to be the best you can. I give my client's three (3) rules to follow when testifying in Court. (1) Answer only what's asked. The more you talk, the more you lie, and you shouldn’t assume you know the direction the attorney is taking you. (2) Don't play games. The simple truth is that this is a game you can’t afford to lose, and knowing that the attorney has all the rules and you don't make that prospect just too risky. Finally, and most importantly, (3) always tell the truth. A person who tells the truth never has to remember the facts, and most often, that’s why you are there. Those little hesitations in your voice are what gives it away, so make sure to be confident in your answer. There is nothing worse than telling the truth, and no one believing you.

To that end, I feel like I can learn more about a person in a trial than I could in any other setting. Not because of what they tell me, but rather what they don’t tell me. The truth is sometimes ugly, but it is always better than a lie.

Joel Harris is an Attorney in Nixa, MO and serves the Springfield area. He engages in a variety of different legal activities including Divorce & Custody, Criminal Law, Traffic & DWI, and Auto accidents.

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