Most of you will go through life without ever being issued a subpoena to appear at a trial and give testimony. However, for those who have been issued a subpoena, the process can be daunting. First and foremost, you must strive diligently to tell the truth. Sure, it seems easy to tell the truth. However, once you start trying to remember the events about which you are to testify, your mind begins playing games with you and you become uncertain as to whether the event you remember happens exactly as you are recalling it today.
Your mind is a wonderful thing. Whenever you truly cannot remember complete events, your mind will fill in the blanks many times simply to allow things you do remember to connect and make sense. Therefore, when called upon to testify, you start second guessing whether you actually recall the event happening or you only recall bits and pieces of the event and your mind is filling in the blanks for the remaining items.
Countless surveys and studies have shown that much of what you do remember actually did not occur as you remember it. That is why trial lawyers may call multiple witnesses who will testify to the same event. You will discover that each of your remembrances is slightly different than your fellow witness’s remembrances.
In preparing to testify if you have any tangible evidence that will help you refresh your memory or recall, locate that evidence and review it. You may have a tangible item that was created as part of the event. It might be a dent in your car. It might be a broken tool, a torn shirt, a diary. Pulling that item out, or viewing that item, might well refresh your memory as to what happened. Talking to other people who witnessed the event may help you recall something about the event that you did not independently recall. Reviewing e-mails and letters you may have written to others after the event will also refresh your memory as to what occurred.
The lawyer’s goal in seeking your testimony is to have you repeat to a judge or a jury your exact recollection of what you witnessed. Generally speaking, the lawyer is not interested or looking for your opinions. The lawyer certainly is not looking for you to fabricate facts. The lawyer generally does not expect you to recall the entire event, unless you were the focus of the event, and even then, it’s not unusual to forget parts of what occurred. Each witness will remember parts of the event that you don’t remember. It is through all of the witnesses’ testimony that the judge or a jury finally can piece together a complete event.
If you are issued a subpoena to appear at trial, you should dress appropriately. That does not necessarily mean your Sunday best, unless you wear your Sunday best every day. You should dress comfortably. If you have a uniform of some sort that you wear to work, generally speaking it is fine for you to wear that uniform to court. You should never wear shorts, tank tops, t-shirts or flip flops. People will be paying attention to you. Will you look believable? Think about people you see in public. Appearance makes the witness.
Show up ½ hour earlier than the subpoena commands and seek out the lawyer who issued the subpoena to let him know you are present.
Many times you will be excused from the courtroom until it is time for you to testify. This is done so that your testimony is not influenced by what you hear another witness testify to. Remember, I mentioned above how everyone remembers events differently? The court wants to hear your remembrance.