Meeting the Client’s Witnesses: Be Patient, Be Supportive

Patrick J Ducharme
Patrick J Ducharme

So far as practicable, you should try to provide the same sort of empathy and support to the witnesses who may be called in support of your client. They too feel vulnerable when they deal with lawyers. Who doesn’t? But witnesses feel more than usually threatened. Except for the fear of punishment that the accused alone may face, witnesses consider that they are very nearly in the same position as the accused. They are unfamiliar with and usually frightened of the trial process, so they are reluctant to be involved. They need to be made to feel that the lawyer has taken into account their interest as well as those of the accused. They must come to see that the lawyer representing the accused is competent to handle the trial and to present them before the court without causing them humiliation or terror.

To these witnesses, the lawyer should always speak of the accused respectfully even if the lawyer’s personal assessment of the accused or of the merits of her case is otherwise. Witnesses tend to reflect the same attitude towards the accused as that of the accused’s counsel. It is often beneficial to tell witnesses how their evidence fits into the defence evidence generally. Only in this way will they understand their significance to the process and outcome. They should also be advised to respect opposing counsel and to avoid evasive tactics. They should be courteous to all court personnel and respectful of the justice system. They should also be admonished that they are not advocates, but facilitators, advancing a piece of the narrative.

This is an except from Patrick Ducharme’s book.