Witness Preparation

If witness preparation was as easy as giving the witness a list of do’s and don’t’s, there would be no need for witness preparation services but some witnesses are well beyond the bandaid approach of a list.

Memorable testimony is honest and authentic.

Witness preparation is probably one of the most misunderstood services provided by trial consultants. The public misunderstands witness preparation because they are inclined to think witness preparation is designed to help the witness cover-up or lie. Nothing could be further from the truth. The witness preparation method used by Westlake Trial Consulting helps witnesses get out of their own way so the witness can present a genuine, accurate message.

Based upon research by Dr. Boccaccini and his colleagues, Westlake Trial Consulting, developed a scientifically sound method for witness preparation:

  1. Baseline – Videotape the witness prior to any witness training. This serves as the baseline.
  2. Praise – Look at the baseline videotape with the witness and identify three behaviors that the witness exhibits that result in good quality testimony. Praise the witness for these three behaviors. Encourage the witness to keep doing these behaviors. If the witness makes self-efficacy statements like, “Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of testifying”, agree with the witness.
  3. Skill Selection – Identify three new behaviors you want the witness to exhibit. Usually, these behaviors are replacement behaviors; if the witness exhibits these behaviors, then she can’t exhibit other behaviors that are inappropriate. For example, teach her to keep her interlace her fingers and rest her hands on the table while testifying, so she doesn’t gesture wildly.
  4. Skill Training – Teach the behavior in a three step process: explain → role model → allow the witness to practice.
  5. Simulation – After you have had time to help the witness practice, videotape the witness testifying.
  6. Feedback – After the simulation, review the videotape with the witness. Focus on the positives and compliment the behaviors you want the witness to continue to use.
  7. Repeat – Repeat Steps 2 through 6 until the witness feels self-efficacy.

We believe that a witness should be authentic and honest. Jurors can tell if a witness is role playing. We help witnesses get out of their own way so who they really are can come across to the judge and jury. The witness preparation method used by Westlake Trial Consulting works. We know it works because we have tested in simulated and actual trials. We are happy to share this technique because we are always looking for a way to combine the art of law with the laws of science.