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Trial Tips: Direct Examination

In order to represent your clients’ best interests most aggressively, you must be prepared to go to trial if necessary.  Of course, most cases don’t go to trial, but criminal defense attorneys who have the reputation of taking cases to trials get better agreed plea deals for the rest of their clients.  One of the most powerful ways to present evidence at trial is through direct examination.

Start Easy

Always warm up a witness before getting into the homerun questions you want the jury to hear.  Who is this person?  What is his story?  What drives him?  Only after humanizing the witness should you move into what you really want the jury to hear.

Credibility is the key to every piece of evidence put on at trial, including witness testimony.  The jury is more likely to sympathize with a witness and believe what he says if they have had a chance to observe and connect with him.  If you rush, you risk missing out on that crucial connection between witness and juror.  Experienced trial attorneys understand that part of being persuasive is being well-liked by the jury—that extends to witnesses on direct.

Be Persuasive

Speaking of being persuasive, use language on direct examination that sways the jury to your side.  Ask simple “who,” “what,” “when,” “why,” “where” questions to allow the witness to tell his story in his own words.  Although the witness on direct will be speaking more than you, set the pace with a tone and directed questions that always keep you in control.

Lawyers sometimes slip into “legalese” language in an attempt to appear formal.  Unfortunately, this is more nervousness than considered tactic.  Instead of saying “tell the court,” just say “share with us.”  Act like you’re having a conversation with a friend who is telling you something very important.  Be genuine and sincere, and just as on cross, be sure to LISTEN to the answers!  Trial attorneys prepare, but also think on their feet.

Show and Tell: Use Demonstrative Evidence

Under Texas Rule of Evidence 430, anything that summarizes and helps advance your theory of the case can be used.  Many attorneys use a large poster of the burdens of proof, but you can get even more creative: establish doubt by demonstrating why your client could not have committed the crime.  Demonstrate an alibi in a memorable way the jury will understand and remember.  Jurors expect to be entertained at trial, and speaking for long periods of time is a good way to lose them.  Instead, break out a demonstrative prop to show them why your theory of the case is what they should be repeating in the jury room after closing arguments have concluded.

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you have a choice of who to hire to represent you.  Don’t take chances with a lawyer who doesn’t have the experience to take a case all the way to trial.



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Law Office of Walker Fults
3500 Maple Ave #400
Dallas, TX 75219

Phone: (214) 797-1861
Fax: (214) 845-7006
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