All jurisdictions have procedures and rules on how one should conduct his/herself in court. However, you can adhere to the following general rules:
- Adhere to professional standards and professional codes.
- Wear appropriate courtroom attire and be well groomed.
- Be courteous when addressing the court, opposing counsel, the defendant and witnesses.
- Speak clearly and audibly.
- Be accurate when referring to the law.
- Do not interrupt the opposing counsel or the judge/magistrate.
- Stay in control of your emotions and do not display anger in the courtroom.
- Be confident.
- Do not be confrontational.
Testimony in court is crucial to the success or failure of a case. Therefore, when testifying in court, follow these simple rules:
Address the court and not the person asking questions.
- Be truthful.
- Speak clearly and slowly.
- Use plain language.
- Do not be confrontational.
- Do not intimidate the defendant or the defence lawyer.
- Keep your answers short and simple.
- Each answer should relate to the question asked only.
- Keep within the boundaries of the case and what you witnessed.
- Do not argue with the prosecutor or the defence lawyer.
Presentation of Evidence
When presenting evidence in court you should follow these rules:
- Do not present false or misleading evidence.
- Do not present evidence which you know is inadmissible.
- Stick to the rules of evidence, the main ones of which are:
This is simply a demonstration that the exhibit is what it purports to be. If it is a rhino horn, the exhibit must be or look like a rhino horn and not a bone or any other thing. If it is a photograph of the exhibit it must as accurately as possible depict the exhibit. Ensure that what is being presented for a witness to identify is what the witness actually perceived in relation to the case and not any other thing.
Ensure that the exhibit is relevant to the case. Do not make a witness identify or talk about an exhibit which is not connected to the case. Ensure that as a witness is describing the exhibit he shows its relevance to the case.
3. Hearsay Evidence Rule
The hearsay rule applies even to presentation of exhibits in court. Hearsay means talking about something that you did not perceive with your senses but which somebody else told you. Such evidence is not admissible in court. When presenting an exhibit in court ensure that it is the exhibit the witness perceived. Do not let your witnesses talk about evidence that they did not personally perceive.
4. Best Evidence Rule
This rule provides that the best evidence is the original unaltered exhibit. If you recovered 100kg of trophies make sure you present the full 100kg and not a sample of the same. If it was wrapped or put in any container, present it as it was in the original form. Do not produce a photograph when you have the real evidence available. You must therefore produce the best evidence that the nature and circumstances of the case will allow.