If you have been indicted for a crime you believe you did not commit or were justified in doing, you may want to testify in your own defense. But, regardless of why you are on trial, it is not uncommon to be nervous about taking to the witness stand.
Even in the simplest of criminal trials, a defendant’s testimony can quickly work against you. Reason? The courtroom process is not always straightforward. Remember, the prosecution is on a mission to prove their case against you, and they will try to turn your own words against you.
Here are a few tips that can help you present a successful self-testimony in your criminal trial.
Understand the questions before answering
Your emotions may run high during your testimony. If you are testifying in court, this can get the attention of the jurors who are trying to discern a truth from a lie. Even if you are just taking a few moments to put your thoughts together, an apparent slow response to crucial questions by either your defense team or the prosecution could be a sign that you are trying to lie. Work hard to appear calm and composed at all times.
Do not answer what you have not been asked
It is easy to feel the need to over-explain yourself while testifying in your trial. You may not like how the question was framed, or assume that simply giving a “yes” or “no” will give the jury a wrong impression of you. However, you need to understand that the prosecution could be setting you up to provide answers that they can then use to bring up issues they would otherwise not raise legally. Do not fall into the trap. Only answer what you have been asked, every time.
Legally speaking, you can testify in your own criminal trial. However, before taking to the stand in your own defense, it is important to understand and avoid the pitfalls that can hurt your case.