How do I introduce (“call”) a witness?
Introducing a witness in court is referred to as “calling” your witness. However, there are a few things to think about before you call a witness to testify.
First, you need to know what your witness has to say and whether it is helpful for your case.
Then, you need to find out if the witness is willing to testify in court. Many people are happy to talk about a situation one-on-one but don’t want to testify in court. If a witness is not willing to testify, you might have to get a subpoena. A subpoena is a court order that makes a person come to court to testify. Once you know who your witnesses will be, you might have to tell the other side. This often happens during discovery with a witness list. Depending on the state’s laws and the type of court case you are in, some courts will allow you to call witnesses without a list.
Make sure to let your witnesses know when to come to court. Your witnesses might have to wait outside of the courtroom until it is their turn to testify. The reason they have to wait in the hall or waiting area is so that other testimony doesn’t change their story. This is called “sequestering” a witness. The sequestering process may take some time, and so you can suggest that your witness bring a magazine or some other item to keep them occupied while they wait.
Although the process might be different from state to state and from court to court, in most courts, you will let the judge know who it is that you want to call to come and testify by saying “Your Honor, I call my first witness, Jane Doe.” Then, the court officer will generally go into the waiting room to alert the witness. The person can then enter the courtroom and s/he will be sworn in. Once your witness is seated in the witness chair, known as the “witness stand,” you can begin to question him/her.