Services as a Witness
The District Attorney’s Office has provided the following information to help you serve as a witness and to give you suggestions for Court testimony. If you have additional questions or concerns, contact the Victim Witness Coordinator at (570) 988-4120
What is a subpoena?
As a witness in a criminal proceeding you have been subpoenaed to appear in court to testify. Your subpoena is simply a court order directing you to appear at the time and place stated. Once you have been subpoenaed you are required to appear as ordered until excused. Failure to appear may be regarded by the Court as contempt. It is very important that you communicate with this office if you cannot appear as directed.
What is Testifying?
It is giving truthful evidence as a witness by making a declaration under oath for the purpose of establishing or proving a fact. An oath is simply a promise to tell the truth. Your job as a witness is very important and is integral to the American system of justice. Without your cooperation, an unjust result may occur in a court proceeding. Always, your duty as a witness is to tell the truth.
Attire and Attitude
A neat appearance and proper dress are important. They show respect for the Court. Avoid distracting mannerisms, such as chewing gum. Be serious in the courtroom. Avoid laughing or talking about the case except when testifying.
Listen carefully to the question being asked. If you do not understand, ask that it be repeated. Give consideration to your response. Take your time responding. Answer only the question asked. Do not volunteer information.
Stand upright when taking the oath. Pay attention, and say, “I Do” loudly and clearly. Try to relax and not seem nervous – you are not on trial. Speak although you are simply telling some neighbors what happened. When leaving the witness stand, wear a confident expression.
If your answer was not correctly stated, correct it immediately. If your answer was not clear, clarify it immediately. If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification before you respond. Always speak clearly. Provide only facts based on your observations. Do not give your opinion.
Avoid limiting testimony by saying “that’s all” or “nothing else happened”. Instead, say “that’s all I recall” or “that’s all I remember happening”. You may remember something important as the proceeding continues.
Do not exaggerate. If you make an estimate, such as about distant or time, clarify that you are estimating. Explain your answer if it cannot be truthfully answered with “yes” or “no”. Verbalize responses rather than nodding your head.
Give positive answers. Avoid saying, “I think” or “I believe”. Do not guess. If you do not know an answer, say “I don’t know”.
If you do not want to answer a question, do not ask the Judge if you must answer it. If it is an improper question, the prosecutor will object.
When being questioned by defense counsel, do not look at the attorney or Judge before answering. Answer on your own.
If you are being asked if you have spoken with anyone about the case, answer honestly. It is proper for prosecutors to speak with witnesses. The defense may try to imply that you have been told what to say. Just say you were asked what the facts were. Stop instantly when the Judge interrupts you or when an attorney objects to a question being asked of you. Wait until the Judge tells you to proceed. Never forget that you are under oath.
Always be courteous, even if the defense attorney may appear discourteous. Do not appear to be cocky. You will lose respect of the Court. Address the Judge as “Your Honor”. Do not lose you temper no matter how hard you are pressed. Remain calm and composed. Do not argue with the defense attorney.
Above All, Tell The Truth!!!