Reinventing Witness Preparation by Kenneth R. Berman challenges our profession’s widely used, over protective approach to witness preparation. Berman argues that the cookie-cutter, “less said the better” approach is not only ineffective, but more often than not turns a good witness into someone so afraid of saying the wrong thing that he or she fails to say the right thing; a likable and trustworthy witness into an off-putting, unbelievable one who looks to be hiding something; a witness who might otherwise have hit a home run into one who whiffs. Berman argues that a more tailored approach that follows the principles listed below is more effective:
- A testimonial occasion is a search for the truth.
- Saying too little can leave false impressions, impair credibility, or otherwise harm the case as much as saying too much, sometimes even more so.
- The best time to give explanations, to put answers in their proper context, and to dispel mistaken impressions is when the question is first answered.
- Listeners will apply the same interpretive judgment to testimonial answers as they apply in ordinary conversation.
- A claimed failure to understand a question will seem incredible if the question would be understood by a regular person in regular conversation.
- Witnesses are people, and people differ in their testimonial skill and capacity.
Reinventing Witness Preparation by Kenneth R. Berman is a worthwhile read. The article can be found here.