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Showing posts with label EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES. Show all posts

Friday, August 30, 2013


If I could go back in time, I would probably tell my self represented self not to go to Court and represent myself.  Seriously, I was like a lamb going to the slaughter in the Courtroom.  On the other hand, now that I've gone through the experience I have more information to write in this blog, so I guess I benefited in other ways through my experience. 

All of you folks reading this blog are benefiting from my damned horrible experience of self representation! 
One of the worst aspects of representing myself was trying to maintain some modicum of control over the proceedings  when everything in the Courtroom was militating against me, starting with the Judge. Up to this point, I have talked about raising objections, primarily focusing on procedural and evidential issues that could arise in court.  However, there is also the area of objections you can raise in regard to testimony witnesses provide to the court.  
I can recall a particular moment in trial when my ex was on the stand.  I'd been asking him questions when all of a sudden he went into this long diatribe where he said that I had taken our kids to Mexico.  Huh!  I thought to myself, Mexico?  I've never been to Mexico.  So I addressed the Judge and told him, "Seriously, your honor, I have never been to Mexico and I have a passport to prove that."  In response, the Judge said to me, "You don't need a passport to go to Mexico." 
Now, in fact, you do need a passport to go to Mexico, but at that moment, what did I know?  Nothing!  Like I said, I'd never been to Mexico, still have not been to Mexico, so subtleties like whether I do or do not need a passport to travel there were quite beyond me.  So how was I going to shut my ex up while he was going on and on about fabricated trips to Mexico? 
There are actually quite a few ways to cut short a witness if he or she is rambling on in directions you don't intend for them to go.  For instance, you can say, "Objection, your honor, non-responsive!"  That would be the appropriate objection if you asked the witness a question and received a response that did not address the issues you raised in your question and instead provided other information that was damaging, misleading, or confusing to your case.  I want to tell you what a different trial I would have had if I had just known to say that! 
Instead, once my ex got on the stand, he simply rambled on about whatever was on his mind--i.e. my trips to Mexico, his theories of the case, why he shouldn't have to be subjected to examination on the stand--all sorts of material.  Meanwhile, the judge and the opposing attorney simply sat back and enjoyed my discomfiture. 
Another good objection would be "Objection, your honor, assumes facts not in evidence."  In other words, since there had been no evidence presented at the trial indicating I'd gone to Mexico, there was no factual basis for stating I had gone there or a reason for bring up the point.  Thus, such a statement should be stricken from the record.  There are all sorts of reasons for throwing testimony out of a trial, testimony that is both good and bad.  
In my case, the opposing attorney loved to say, "Objection, your honor, relevance."  I don't know why, but whenever she said that, my brain would go into jam mode.  I'd be like to myself, "Yeah, why is this fact relevant?  I'm not sure.  I've forgotten."  Of course, once I was at home and done for the day, the reasons would come back to me, which was rather unhelpful in terms of timing. 
What made relevance hard to recall, let alone explain to the judge, was the fact that all the judges in family court generally ruled to eliminate opening remarks from the trial.  I'm sure that was done on purpose!  Without your opening remarks, it is very hard to explain why you are proceeding down a certain line of questioning because you have been unable to provide a context in advance.  Then when you try to explain the relevance of your line of questioning, you end up getting into a full blown explanation of your case all of which is not allowed. 
My experience with testimony at trial was like trying to make my way across a minefield--every other question I heard, "Objection, objection, objection." to the point where I could barely ask any question, or present any evidence, and I was trying to make my argument based upon the threadbare remains.  And I only had some remains because the judge had mercy on me and lowered the standards somewhat so that a bit of my argument made it through. 
There is also the point that you should keep in mind when considering proceeding to trial as a self represented party.  When you are eliciting testimony from a witness, keep in mind that there are different kinds of examination--direct examination, cross examination, redirect examination and recross examination.  Each of these categories of examination require a different kind of questioning technique.  So at cross examination you are not allowed to ask the same kinds of questions as you would at direct examination. 

For more information on the various kinds of objections you can raise during testimony at trial, see the following link:

For more information on the various kinds of witness examination, see the following link:

The bottom line, though, is that if you don't know anything about how to elicit information properly from a witness, the opposing attorney and the judge will run circles around you.  This is where any self represented party benefits from observing as many trials as possible before entering court for his or her own trial.  Otherwise, there are books and CDs, some by NBI (National Business Institute) which can clue you in on these procedures so you have a mastery of them before you pursue your own case in court.