Mock Trial: Part 3: Presentation of Evidence and Testimony of Witnesses
Following opening statements, evidence regarding the case is presented. Anything that tends to prove or disprove a claim about the facts is called evidence. Evidence may be something in writing, or it may be an article such as a document, an object, a photo or the like, in which case it is called an exhibit. (Conversely, not all exhibits are evidence.)
Unless the case can be proved by writings, the plaintiff will call witnesses to testify. The witnesses swear (or affirm) to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The lawyer who has called a witness proceeds with direct examination. In so doing, the lawyer asks questions to bring out the facts of the case. In any important matter, the lawyer is not allowed to "lead" the witness by asking questions in a form that would suggest the answer. The question asked must appear to have some bearing on the case, and the witness must be shown to personally know what he or she is talking about.
If these and other rules are not followed, the other lawyer may properly object and, if the question is improper, the judge will sustain the objection, which means that the question cannot be answered. If the question is proper, the judge will overrule the objection, and the answer is given.
When the direct examination is concluded, the lawyer for the other side may cross-examine, or ask questions of, the witness. The cross-examining lawyer may ask "leading" questions. At the conclusion of the cross-examination, the first lawyer may ask questions on redirect examination to clear up points developed on cross-examination.To keep out improper information, witnesses are allowed to answer only the questions asked. Both sides may ask questions to find out all a witness knows that is relevant to the case. If the witness makes a statement that is not an answer to a question, it may be stricken. The judge may instruct the jury to disregard that answer entirely. If a witness is absent, written testimony from that witness may have been taken before trial. This written testimony, called a deposition, is taken under oath and after both sides have been given a chance to be present.
If a witness has already testified in court under oath, this testimony has been taken down and typed. This testimony is called a transcript.
There may be additional evidence, such as facts that the parties have stipulated are true or facts that they have admitted in sworn documents before trial.
The plaintiff's or prosecution's case is presented first. As each witness testifies, the side that called the witness asks questions in direct examination. Then the side that did not call the witness has an opportunity to ask questions in cross examination. Physical evidence, such as documents, weapons or photographs are admitted into evidence and numbered for identification.
During the trial, if one attorney objects to a question, he presents his objection to the judge. These are questions of legal technicality and may be argued out of your hearing. Do not be concerned. The judge will advise the jury of any information you need to make your decision, or instruct you to disregard what should not be considered. A ruling by the judge to sustain or overrule an objection does not mean that the judge is taking sides. He is applying the law which permits or does not permit the question to be asked or the answer to the question.
When each side has presented all their evidence, they "rest" their case.
I had my students write the script for their presentation of evidence and testimony of the witnesses using the statements from witnesses and the chart that we made in the CSI class. They were required to include at least one objection, preferably two, one sustained and one overruled.