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So there's this situation, where a relative of mine has been arrested and caged up with charges of a white collar crime. In order for us to fight the prosecutors, we must bail him/her out first. I have been asked to testify at that hearing through a video conference call. What are the things that I should prepare for this session, in terms of order of dress, language, content?

The family member is a very good person, and was simply wrongly accused of a crime. Roughly what things should I say to convince the judge to let him/her go?

Thanks

  • The main thing is to convince the judge that they aren't a flight risk, I believe. I'm not sure the best way to do that, though. – JAB Nov 10 '17 at 20:32
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    Seems to me that this is a question you should ask your relative's defense attorney. – Nate Eldredge Nov 13 '17 at 14:08
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What are the things that I should prepare for this session, in terms of order of dress, language, content?

Dress

In an actual court room, suit and tie is preferred for men and formal dress for women for lawyers and professionals.

Your "Sunday best" or what you would wear to work on a typical day would be appropriate if you don't have a suit and tie or the equivalent.

Avoid nightclub looks, any garment or ornament with a message, or more than minimal jewelry or accessories. For a video testimony, solids come across better than complex patterns if the video resolution turns out to be low. Your clothing should not be a message other than that you are a respectful reputable member of the community.

Language and Content

You should avoid colloquialism or profanity (except in a quotation from someone else about what they said out of court), but should not try to affect an accent or dialect that you cannot speak naturally. If you grew up in rural West Virginia, don't try to pretend you grew up on the Harvard University campus.

If you need an interpreter, you should let someone know in advance as this can be arranged.

Generally, you should only speak in response to question, and should leave a "beat" between being asked and answering any question in case someone says "I object" before you start to answer.

You should listen to the question you are asked, truthfully answer the question you were actually asked (not necessarily the one that was intended to be asked), and stop when you have answered it. (This is harder than it seems.) If asked an open ended question, take whatever time it takes to answer it completely.

It is appropriate to instead ask for clarification of a question if you couldn't hear it properly or if you don't understand it because it uses a word you don't understand.

If the question assumes something that isn't true, correct that wrong assumption. For example: "what did you see the defendant doing at the football game on Sunday?" "I didn't see the defendant doing anything at the football game on Sunday because he was having dinner with me after the baseball game on Sunday."

Don't rush. Most people talk fast when they are nervous or try to over summarize. Everyone has gathered at this moment, in part, to hear what you have to say. Take the time necessary to say what you need to say to tell the whole story in response to the questions you are asked without summarizing the facts.

A little emotion can be appropriate in your tone, but stay civil and don't blow your top. As a rule of thumb the person who seems most reasonable usually wins.

The judge can be referred to as "your honor". Lawyers can be referred to as "sir" or "ma'm".

In content, you will be normally asked to provide your opinion on things like "is there any reason he would be a flight risk" (ideally answering with not just a "no" but a "he owns a home and has deep ties to the community and would never flee."), "is he a threat to the public?", "does he have a good reputation in the community?" ("Yes, I'd trust him with my money and my children.").

Don't make things up, but focus on facts that reasonably demonstrate that he is unlikely to flee because he has too much to lose, firm ties, and no place to go.

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    Thank you so much for your answer. Just one more thing, I am a 15 year old with a 12 year old who has also been requested for a testimony. Are any of your answers different for kids? – Space Fruiticle Nov 10 '17 at 23:54
  • Not really. Just don't pretend to know more than you do because you think it might look good and don't try to sound super knowledgable. As a general rule, stick to the facts. "Sunday best" is probably better guidance than "work clothes" unless you attend a school with school uniforms in which case a school uniform would be appropriate. A jacket and tie or formal dress clothes would not be expected of a 12 year old. A 15 year old would be fine with a jacket and tie or formal dress clothes, but probably not a full fledged suit, although that wouldn't be entirely wrong either. – ohwilleke Nov 13 '17 at 4:49

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