Preparing for Trial: What Witnesses and Experts Need to Know

Preparing for Trial: What Witnesses and Experts Need to Know
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-06-22
Unit 1Slide Deck: Preparing for Trial
Unit 2Transcript: Preparing for Trial
Unit 3Workbook: Preparing for Trial
Unit 4Recording: Preparing for Trial

We all have some vague idea about how the justice system works, be it with how it is portrayed in the media, with how public trials are covered in the news, or with firsthand experience working in the criminal justice or law enforcement professions. But it’s a different story when we are the ones who are requested to appear in court as witness. In between the court etiquette, the legalese, and complex court procedures, it’s always good to have guidance on all the legal nitty-gritty so we can provide compelling statements that support the pursuit of justice.

Jake Kamins is back on the Justice Clearinghouse to provide a crash-course on preparing for trial – particularly animal cruelty cases. Jake serves as Animal Cruelty Deputy District Attorney (AC-DDA) in the State of Oregon. He’s sworn in 21 counties in Oregon representing the State in criminal animal cruelty cases.

Details of this webinar include:

  • The training gap in law enforcement and animal control/services officers when it comes to animal cruelty cases which inadvertently leads to poor investigations and missed opportunities for prosecution.
  • Before-the-trial basics
    • The process from complaint to investigation and prosecution.
    • The potential outcomes upon the prosecutor’s review of reports to determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed.
    • The level of offenses that a defendant may be charged and the process and penalty for these.
    • The initial appearance where the defendant will enter their plea and may get release conditions if they’re not in custody pending trial.
    • The discovery obligation to ensure every evidence and documentation is complete.
    • The pre-trial plea-bargain in an effort to resolve the case without going to a trial.
    • The pre-trial motions requested from the court by either side in order to advance their goals.
  • A look into the main players’ roles and responsibilities during the trial, their characteristics and categories, potential challenges, and rights.
  • Guidelines when preparing for trial that focus on:
    • Familiarizing with the court procedure.
    • Working with the prosecutor and prepping for the information and details that they want from you on the stand.
    • Ensuring that reports, documentation, and evidence are complete and clarifying for any that are excluded or inadmissible.
    • Reviewing your written notes and reports and practicing answering potential questions for a compelling testimony at court.
  • Tips for on the day of the trial that concentrate on:
    • Checking with the attorney’s office to confirm the date, time, and place of the trial, and where you should be waiting.
    • Behavior, etiquette, and proper attire while in court.
    • Managing expectations about the wait time prior to your appearance as a witness.
  • Why it is critical to tell the truth and the potential consequences of lying under oath for yourself, the case, and the agency you’re affiliated with.
  • Valuable tips for testifying and answering questions during the direct examination and cross examination.
    • Instances where it’s acceptable to ask for clarification, take a pause, or answer “I don’t know/remember.”
    • Answering leading questions by sticking to the truth.
    • Directing answers to the jury, being aware of your surroundings, and remaining mindful of people’s reactions and feelings.
    • Actively listening to the questions to ensure answers are accurate and complete, and stopping immediately when an objection is made.
  • Post-trial events that a witness may be called back for.

Topics raised during the Q&A were about:

  • The applicability of the points discussed in any criminal justice matter, not just animal cruelty cases.
  • Proactively reaching out and coordinating with the prosecutors.
  • Directing answers to the jurors during testimony.
  • Working with prosecutors specializing in animal cruelty cases.
  • How expert witnesses are qualified by the judge.
  • Ensuring that reports, records, and notes being referred to during testimony were submitted to the prosecutor and defense.
  • How to best address the animal that’s the subject in the case.
  • Effectively navigating through yes or no only cross-examination questions.
  • Appropriate attire for officers coming in to testify in court.
  • How to deal with a person violating court-ordered prohibition from possessing an animal.


Other Webinars with this Speaker


Audience Comments

  • “Loved the clear, concise explanations of what a witness to a case must know and practice to sound credible if called to the stand to testify in court.” — Christine
  • “The most beneficial thing was thinking about the prospective of witnesses and explaining even the most basic parts of the judicial process.” — Chase
  • “I appreciated the examples used in testifying, and that it is okay to say, “I don’t know.” His confidence and expertise was much appreciated. ” — Elizabeth
  • “I like that his presentation applied to not only animal cases but any trial. Most of what he spoke about was applicable to my line of work in forensics.” — Jennifer
  • “It was helpful to explain the role of the prosecution and the defense. Many of the clients/victims that I work with are not aware the State’s Attorney is not their attorney.  This is something we often need to explain.” — Melissa
  • “This was a good refresher for an upcoming court hearing. I liked the way DDA took you through step by step even though I’ve been in court several times it’s always a good reminder of how to conduct yourself and be professional.” — Rick
  • “This webinar was really done well. Would like to hear more from the presenter. “– Susan
  • “Some specific examples of where a witness has made mistakes or followed the defense attorney down the proverbial rabbit hole. Things you have witnessed a witness say. I made mistakes in my early days and try to help the younger investigators not repeat them. Thanks. Great presentation.”  — Terry



View our Animal Welfare Webinar  Schedule and Recordings



This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.




This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.





Additional Resources
2 years ago
After the Webinar: Preparing for Trial – What Witnesses and Experts Need to Know. Q&A with Jake Kamins
Webinar presenter Jake Kamins answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Preparing […]
3 years ago
Preparing Witnesses and Experts for Trial
Most people’s knowledge of the criminal justice system is founded on media portrayals of forensic […]
3 years ago
Working and Managing Inter-Agency Relationships: Investigating & Prosecuting Animal Abuse Cases
A collaborative approach is seen to be effective in the law enforcement and justice profession. It a […]
4 years ago
Animals as Victims: Charging and the Law
Cases on animal cruelty or neglect can be difficult to investigate or prosecute. Lack of knowledge a […]
5 years ago
How to Handle a Recanting Witness
As if building, handling and prosecuting cases aren’t a challenge by itself already, sometimes, we […]