Friday, February 8, 2008

Trial Tips from Elliott Wilcox

Wouldn't it be great to get short, understandable, practical tips about trial practice sent to your email? Try out Elliott Wilcox's free Trial Tips Newsletter.

In the latest issue, he reflects on that standby question of direct examination, "What happened next."

Without guidance, your witness may be thinking, “What happened next? Well, the earth spun on its axis and rotated around the sun; my heartbeat sped up; I took a breath; a white car passed by me in the left lane; a man wearing a red jacket stepped off the sidewalk; I turned to the southeast; the traffic light turned from green to yellow; two men walked out of the grocery store; a lady ten feet to my left ducked down and screamed; I unholstered my concealed firearm; my partner opened the trunk of the patrol car... A lot of things happened 'next.' Which one did you want me to talk about? Oh, the shots that were fired? Yeah, I heard that too.”

“What happened next?” is simply too broad a question. It allows for a whole world of possible responses. If you want to help your witness tell his story more effecti, give him some idea of what he's supposed to say by focusing his attention toward a narrower range of responses. Instead of asking, “What happened next,” ask something like this:
  • “Where did you drive to next?”
  • “Who did you speak to after that?”
  • “What was the next test you performed on the substance?”
  • “How does the man in the white jacket react?”
  • “Let's focus your attention on the operating nurse. What does she do next?”
I also like Elliott's regular "Quotations for Lawyers." This week's:
In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice, there is.
Elliott has some many tips bubbling out he doesn't limit himself to the newsletter. Also check out his Winning Trial Advocacy Techniques blog. What the heck, take a look all around his website. It's good!

1 comment:

Marsha Hunter said...

I love your blog, Mary, and regularly get stuck surfing around on it. I am curious about your post from Feb. 8, 2008 about Elliott Wilcox's material on the internet. I visited his blog and web site, and can't find his name or bio anywhere. I'm thinking of putting a link to his blog on my own new blog, but would like more information. Do you happen to know him? Thank you,
Marsha Hunter