In the real estate world it is all about location, location, location. In the trial world, it is all about demeanor. Demeanor let’s a jury know that you think someone is lying without you having to call the witness a liar. Demeanor let’s the jury know that you are a human being that sympathizes with a person who has been injured or is simply genuinely mistaken. Demeanor gets the message across louder than anything you can say. Talk is cheap, but demeanor is action.
Demeanor Towards The Friendly Witness
This is the witness that doesn’t hurt your case. The witness that in your narrative is just truthfully testifying as to what they saw. Your demeanor during questioning of this witness should be friendly. You should be pleasant, open, and welcoming. The jury should feel from your interaction with this witness that you have no problems with the truth. The jury should also feel that you are not some stiff, douche bag lawyer that is looking to throw his or her weight around the courtroom.
Demeanor Towards The Confused Witness
This is a witness who is going to hurt your case because of what they will testify to yet they have no motive to lie. This may even be a sympathetic witness like a young child or an elderly person. In your narrative this witness is not a liar. This witness is not coming to court to intentionally impede the administration of justice. This witness was just there when it happened and now is coming before the jury because he or she was subpoenaed to do so.
The confused witness should be treated with deference. This is especially so if they are a child, an elderly person, or a victim of a crime (in your trial narrative). You should be precise in eliciting whatever information you need from this witness to show that they are confused. Yet, you should be sympathetic to their plight. The jury doesn’t want to see a lawyer beating up on an 8 year old or a rape victim without a good reason. Be particularly careful with your impeachment of this witness. The tone, pace, and volume during impeachment of this witness should not come across like they have wronged you or your client. The tone, pace, and volume of impeachment with this witness should carry an air of empathetic understanding. Almost as if you feel sorry for the witness for finding themselves in this situation through no fault of their own.
Demeanor Towards The Lying Witness
The lying witness is a rat. He or she will come into the courtroom to advance his or her goals by any means necessary. This is a witness that has no problem lying to put someone in jail, take someone’s money, or protect an evil corporation from the inevitable consequences of its wrongdoing. The lying witness is out to get everything your client has worked for. The lying witness is out to take your client’s freedom. There is no love lost between the lying witness and any law abiding, honest member of society. And there definitely can be no love lost between the lying witness and you in the courtroom.
If your trial story is that this witness is lying to hurt your client then you have to show the jury that this is true. You do that not just with what you say, but also how you say it. You have no friendly greetings to share with the lying witness. You have no open and welcoming tone for him or her. You have no mercy for the lying witness–no matter how dumb, nervous, old, or young they are.
One thing to note though–It is always important for the jury to like you and trust you. We as people tend to dislike people who are rude and over the top. So you have to make sure to remain within the bounds of professionalism while exercising the proper demeanor that the lying witness deserves. The best way to do this is to have a stern, firm tone, and keep your tone of voice within a natural range. There is no need to shout at the witness or be rude to the witness.