I am going to outline the basics for trial preparation in this blog. Of course, there are many nuances to preparing for each trial (as each case has a different set of facts and applicable law). The information that follows is a rough draft of how to prepare for trial.
1) Read all transcripts of all Examinations Before Trial (“EBT”). – Once the Court has mandated that you must appear to select a jury on a date certain, I always begin with reading the transcripts of the EBTs. These transcripts are the essence of how the trial will proceed. Each witness will have provided their version of how the accident took place, as well as the plaintiff’s version of his or her injuries, pain and suffering, and economic loss.
Using tabs to highlight pertinent testimony is the best way to collect information that can be used to either bolster your case (or impeach the testimony of your adversary’s witnesses). What a witness knows (and cannot recall or does NOT know) can determine the weaknesses or strengths of your case.
For example, in an automobile case, if you are attempting to show that the other driver was not paying attention, you should highlight the following testimony:
Prior to the accident, where were you coming from? If the answer is “a wedding,” the next question might be “Did you drink any alcohol at that wedding?”
Did you have the radio playing as you drove? If the answer is “yes,” then you would look to emphasize that the radio was loud, it was playing loud music, that is was distracting, etc.
When for the first time did you see my client? if the answer was “not until the accident occurred,” you would then look to emphasize that the driver was not “seeing what should be seen” prior to the accident occurring. This will tie in with instructions on the law by the judge (which literally says : “all parties are required to have seen what should be seen.”).
You will use the transcripts of your client when preparing him or her as a witness. The EBTs are going to be read very carefully by your adversary, therefore your client needs to be fully prepared to recall what his or her testimony was at the EBT.
When there is testimony that is clearly damaging, it is best to let that page and line savor as you set up the witness. For example:
Are you telling this jury that your version of the accident is true? and that although there are no other witnesses besides you and my client, do you want this jury to believe only your version? and you expect this jury to decide this case in your favor because you are an honest person, correct?
Is it true that on April 1st, 2002, you were convicted of the crime of forgery in the 1st degree? POW!
I read ALL transcripts at least 3 or 4 times before I start tabbing the important testimony. I prefer to know the story of the case inside and out before I begin strategizing. I look for the weaknesses in the plaintiff’s testimony (in order to rehabilitate him) and weaknesses in the defendant’s testimony (so I can go in for the kill on cross examination).
I also prepare a list of all important testimony (including page and line number) and use that at the podium during the direct and cross examination phase of the trial.
Trial Preparation – to be continued in the next blog.