5 Tips for Testifying After a Shooting

By Calibre Press  |   Jan 8, 2020

In their powerfully written and impressively thorough new book, Deadly Force Encounters, 2nd Edition: Cops & Citizens Defending Themselves and Others, prominent law enforcement behavioral science consultant and trainer, Dr. Alexis Artwohl, and seasoned law enforcement veteran and award-winning author, Loren W. Christensen, include a wealth of information related to virtually every topic associated with deadly force. (Get a copy. You will not be disappointed!)

Over time we’ll share various nuggets of knowledge from the book, beginning with some helpful tips for effectively preparing to testify after a shooting in depositions, grand jury hearings, trials or other legal proceedings. “These events can be demanding and stressful,” they write, “so careful preparation for a potential ordeal is critical.”

Here are the 5 tips they share. Whether you’re new to testifying or you’ve been in and out of the box throughout your career, these will serve as both valuable eye-openers and helpful reminders.

1. Organize, review & rehearse. You want to clearly and concisely present the facts of your case. Repeatedly review all the documents related to your case to help you memorize the facts, rehearse them in your mind, and practice telling your account out loud. This is standard advice for any important performance, be it sports, a teaching assignment of testimony. Your attorney should assist you with this preparation.

2. Check your attitude. You want to project confidence but not arrogance. Strive to maintain a calm and dignified demeanor. Unconditional respect for everyone in the courtroom is critical. Opposing counsel may try to goad you into appearing angry, disrespectful, reactive, dishonest, confused or incompetent, so be prepared to resist these tactics.

3. Consider your body language. Sit up straight and sit close to the microphone. Look at the attorneys when they are asking you questions but look at the jury when answering. Remember, it’s the jury who will determine your fate, and it’s them you must convince of your sincerity and good character.

4. Focus on your communication style. Speak clearly and concisely in a normal conversational tone. Get to the point and do not ramble, mumble, fidget or succumb to other annoying behavior.

5. Answering questions. Always be honest and stick with what you can clearly remember. If you don’t know the answer, say so. Do not be tempted or persuaded to waffle, guess, estimate, or be twisted into confusion by tricky or poorly worded questions from attorneys. If you do not understand the question or it’s phrased in such a way that you cannot clearly or honestly answer it, say so. It will be up to the attorneys and the judge to decide if the question should be rephrased or you must try your best to answer it. Answer only the question being asked and do not elaborate beyond it.

Editor’s note: You’ll now find Deadly Force Encounters, 2nd Edition: Cops & Citizens Defending Themselves and Others, released on Dec. 26th, on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. Highly recommended.

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Calibre Press has 37 years in the business of keeping officers safer, smarter and more successful, from rookie to retirement.
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