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Testifying in Court: Survival Skills for Professionals

Testifying in court is a time of anxiety for the first time witnesses and aggressive cross-examinations are particularly stressful, even for the experienced witness. This workshop begins by presenting ways of understanding the common problems faced on the witness stand. No techniques can take the place of good knowledge and careful preparation, and the foundations of such knowledge and preparation are described. The masterful expert witness knows what to expect in direct examinations and in cross-examinations. Drawing on the professional literature, on scientific findings, and on his own experience in court, Dr. Brodsky will present pathways towards reducing anxiety on the witness stand and specific methods for dealing with the most aggressive cross-examinations. This workshop will be didactic in part, but will use a highly interactive format. Participants will have the opportunity to try out the techniques presented for deflecting and mastering cross-examination challenges to their experience, to their thoroughness, to their competency, and to their impartiality. The workshop will include examples of worst scenario examinations and will draw on examples from Dr. Brodsky’s recent testimony.

WorkShop Content

Preparation for testimony, Meeting with counsel
The direct examination, Coping with examination in depositions
Nonverbal behaviors and communication: Gestures, voice, and posture
Handling anxiety about testimony, Specific techniques for mastery of the witness role
Suspicion-evoking and trust-evoking testimony, Findings from the Witness Research Lab
Coping with Cross-Examination: General considerations, The Push-Pull, The Admit-Deny, Answer yes or no, Eye Contact, Pace and Thought, Personal Space, Negative Assertions, Damage Control
Eight examples of challenging and difficult questions and answers
Gender and attempted invasions of personal privacy on the stand, After your testimony

WorkShop Objectives

Understand the legal context in which testimony is seated
Describe the substantive foundations of testimony
Master the common anxiety and fears that are associated with testifying in court
Utilize meeting times with attorneys in ways that lead to better testimony
Appreciate the nature of nonverbal communications and improve the totality of verbal and nonverbal aspects of testimony
Anticipate typical patterns of cross-examination
Comfortably manage attorney efforts at intimidation and bullying
Respond appropriately when areas of lack of knowledge are tapped during cross examination
Manaage surprise attacks, incorporate responsible and professional techniques in testimony

Presented by

Stanley Brodsky, Ph.D.
Stanley Brodsky, Ph.D.

Stanley L. Brodsky is Professor of Psychology at the University of Alabama where he coordinates the Psychology-Law Ph.D. concentration. He is the author or editor of thirteen books and about 200 articles and chapters, mostly in psychology applied to legal issues. Among other honors, he has been the recipient of the Distinguished Contribution Award for Outstanding Achievement in Forensic Psychology by the American Academy of Forensic Psychology. His books, Testifying in Court, The Expert Expert Witness, and Coping with Cross-Examination, were published by the American Psychological Association. In 2009, he wrote Principles and Practice of Trial Consultation, and just released in 2011, Psychotherapy with Coerced and Reluctant Clients. He directs the Witness Research Laboratory in the Department of Psychology and he maintains an independent practice in forensic and clinical psychology. He is a frequent leader of workshops on court testimony and he is considered by some observers to be the nation’s premier expert on court testimony.