Most people’s knowledge of the criminal justice system is founded on media portrayals of forensic investigations or court proceedings that are not always realistic. With this in mind, it is imperative that those who are living and breathing the criminal justice system provide as much guidance to the people who find themselves amidst legal cases, particularly the witnesses who may not necessarily have anything to do with cases directly but just know a thing or two that may shape its outcome.
This session’s instructors are Maricopa County Attorney Office’s Hilary Weinberg and Edward Paine. Hilary has worked at different bureaus with the Maricopa County Attorney Office since 1999. She was the Family Violence Bureau Chief between 2014-2019 and is most recently prosecuting homicide cases in the Vehicular Crimes Bureau. Meanwhile, Ed is a Deputy County Attorney since 2012 who has worked in the Vehicular Crimes Bureau for the majority of his career working on various cases from DUIs to murder.
Specifics of this course include:
- The importance for those working in criminal justice to recognize misconceptions about the profession and how it can be very unfamiliar for other people.
- The importance of witness preparation to ensure witnesses are not overwhelmed and are able to provide persuasive testimonies.
- Pointers for lawyers who have to work with witnesses that highlight the usefulness of prep work, a third-party investigator during prep, telling the truth, and familiarizing with COVID-related court protocols.
- Guidelines when working with different segments of the population as witnesses.
- To be discerning in picking which law enforcement officer to testify in court taking into account their experience testifying, familiarity with the case, and impartiality.
- Providing the information that the officer needs to know before testifying regarding the facts of the case, their conduct in court, the language they’ll use, and what to wear.
- The importance of presenting the credentials and expertise of the scientists who’ll be asked to testify.
- Leveraging the scientists’ expertise to better explain their testimony by illustrating/demonstrating findings and opinions in detail.
- Strategies to get in touch with a doctor who will stand as a fact witness – how and where to serve their subpoena and coordinating court appearance with their schedules.
- How common of a practice it is to have children as a witness and determining the need for the child to provide testimony.
- Techniques to build rapport with kids and avoid traumatization of a child.
- Modifications and accommodations to consider when working with kids in terms of verbal and comprehension ability.
- Legal considerations for inmate witnesses including coordinating with their legal counsel, collaborating with the facility for transport and security concerns, and safety concerns for the inmate.
- Clothing options when appearing in court and disclosing agreements made and benefits an inmate may get for testifying.
- General recommendations for civilian witnesses including rehearsing direct and cross-examinations, attending to their questions and concerns, and providing them detailed instructions on logistics and appropriately dressing for court.
- Dealing with recanting witnesses by utilizing records of their previous statements or 911 calls.
- The importance of disclosing recantations and understanding potential underlying reasons for recanting.
Queries and comments from the audience concerned:
- Handling nervous witnesses.
- Where the witness should face when answering questions.
- Addressing the prosecutors.
- Following up and clarifying unclear statements.
- Instances when an officer may not have to wear their uniform in court.
- The forensic interview trainings that prosecutors may take to help with working with a child as witness.
- Other resources about preparing witnesses for trial.
- Best practices for witnesses that require an interpreter.
Other Webinars with this Speaker include:
- Feb 18: Building Peer Support Programs for Prosecutors
- May 13: Preparing Witnesses and Experts for Trial (this webinar)
Resources and Handouts Mentioned during the Webinar
- Effective Expert Witnessing: Practices for the 21st Century, 5th ed. By Matson, Jack V., 2013, CRC Press
- Courtroom Testimony Courses
- Previous Related Webinar: How to Handle a Recanting Witness
- “Very informative about your professional appearance and how to lessen anxiety when testifying.” — Ann Marie
- “Outstanding Hilary and Ed. Thank you!” — Barbara
- “I like the discussion on prepping law enforcement officers. I am working on a training lesson plan for Deputies in my agency.” — William
- “I liked the concrete examples given as opposed to speaking in the abstract. I just taught on this exact topic recently and there were tips I would definitely include in my future trainings.” — Laura
- “Great information regarding children as witnesses. Excellent presentation. Thank you.” — Jamil
- “The presentation was phenomenal. The trial preparation information was so informative. Thank you for presenting!” — Kim
- “The speakers’ breadth of experience, knowledge, and overall information provided. She was awesome, thank you Justice Clearinghouse!!” — Nicole
- “I like how you discussed witness testimonies from different perspectives (i.e.: officers, children, etc.). Great webinar overall.” — Paige