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Witness Preparation Tip: When Is It Appropriate For A Witness To Show Anger? by Merrie Jo Pitera, Ph.D. – CEO, Litigation Insights Blog


Many years ago, I was working on witness preparation with a corporate HR Director who was being deposed. It was quickly apparent from the moment that he walked in the room that he was not happy to be there. During his own mock direct examination, when the questions were clearly “friendly fire” from his own attorney, he was angry and aggressive. He was so mad that he was getting out of his seat and pointing at his own attorney with his finger when answering simple questions. What was worse, he was getting progressively more emotional and belligerent as the questioning continued. And we hadn’t even gotten to mock cross examination yet! It was clear we needed to take a break and pull him aside for a heart-to-heart discussion. In his current emotional state, he was the antithesis of an HR Director, and his display of anger was inadvertently reinforcing the plaintiff’s claims that the company did not care about his complaints of racial discrimination. An additional complication was that the HR Director thought his strong, angry reaction was helping his employer’s case.

While extreme, this witness’ reaction to testifying is not unusual. It is no secret that no one looks forward to being deposed. . . .