This is probably too mild for the Pit, so I’ll try it out here, instead.
Pardon the drunk posting.
I am desperately tired of people who, when in court and on the witness stand, REFUSE to answer the question posed to them. I have spent the entire week listening to people who, when given a simple es or no question, answer with either “Well, I went to my mom’s house, and then I found out that that was a bad Idea, so then I went to my car, and I got on my cell phone and then I called…” etc, etc. etc. or refuse to answer at all because the question does not suit them.
YOU DO NOT GET YOUR CHOICE OF QUESTIONS, FOLKS!!!
Doesn’t anyone watch Court TV?
Here’s a hint – if you go to Court, and you are asked a question which appears to you to be a trick question, or a question which forces you to answer “yes” or “no,” but which you feel requires further explanation, you are expected to say YES or NO and trust in your attorney to elicit the missing information when it is his or her chance to cross examine you!!!
Please, PLEASE, just answer the question asked. Unless your attorney is a complete jackass, he or she will find a way to get the requisite explanatory information on the record, and unless your judge was born yesterday, he or she KNOWS that your adversary is asking “trick questions.” That’s what they’re there for, folks!
IANAL, but isn’t the reason behind these rules of testimony that if the witness is allowed to allocute in an untrammeled fashion, he or she may (1) introduce opinions and speculations or (b) facts which, while absolutely true, may not be legally admissible as evidence?
In the cross examination phase, attorneys have more leeway to ask “leading” questions, and witnesses have more leeway to answer.
IIRC, some of the lawyers and other folks with courtroom experience said that, in many cases, the judge will allow a witness to expand upon an answer, even if the interrogating attorney says that he or she wants a simple yes or no answer.
The consensus seemed to be that the impression given by TV shows like Law and Order, which often force witnesses to give a yes or no answer, was not actually a very accurate portrayal of real courtroom procedure.
I can’t find the thread now, and i guess it’s possible i’m misremembering the conversation.
Well, as a person who spends five days a week in the courtroom, let me assure you that the yes or no answer, followed by intelligent cross examination, is the preferred model.
Trust me when I tell you that letting witnesses to go off on endless tangents is not only maddeningly time consuming, but counter productive. It completely derails the thread of the argument being made by the attorney.
I guess, then, lawyers must never ask those “have you stopped beating your wife”-type questions.
If you have never beaten your wife, this question cannot be answered with “yes” or “no.” It needs a certain amount of elaboration on the part of the witness in order to provide an answer that comports with the facts.
By the way, i finally found the thread i was thikning of. It seems that most of the anecdotes in that thread come not from lawyers, but from laypeople recounting their own courtroom experiences.