How to be an Unimpeachable Witness

Impeachment’s are a great tool at destroying credibility. While it’s a great tool at destroying credibility, it can destroy your own teams credibility if your witness is impeached and was caught lying at the stand.

Impeachment are unavoidable as all humans make mistakes. Here are a few simple tips to avoid becoming impeached while on the witness stand.

1. Know your witness statement

The number one step to avoiding impeachment is knowing your witness statement by heart. You will need to know and understand everything about your witness. This will require reading and dissecting the witness statement so you can capture every detail possible.

You may say this is common sense but most if not all Mock Trial witness statements were created by the organization running the Mock Trial program. The witness statement didn’t come from your own words and it’s your responsibility to fully understand what it’s trying to convey about the character you’re playing.

2. Don’t lie. Be careful when you twist the facts.

The number one thing about being a witness is that you should avoid lying. Even if the truth will ruin your character, it’s not worth it to lie. The best thing to do – with caution – is to twist the facts so that you’re telling the truth but diminishing the reality of what happened. However, when twisting the facts, make sure you don’t purposely lie or that will hurt you.

3. Play it off

If you do end up getting impeached – what’s done is done. The best thing to do in this situation is to say “I’m sorry, I was confused by the question” or “I’m sorry, I mixed up the events of what happened” and then restate what actually happened. This will help cool off the situation and restore a tiny bit of credibility to your witness.

If you are playing against a good lawyer who followed our Impeachment guide, then you could be saved. Once you hear the lawyer say something along the lines of “Is it your sworn testimony today that …,” then it is your sign that you’re about to be impeached and you could wiggle your way out of that situation by saying “Oh no, I’m sorry, I mixed up the events and meant to say …”

Story Time

Impeachment is probably one of my favorite aspect of Mock Trial and always gives me a good laugh. Here are a few of my favorite impeachment stories:

  • I’ve once watched a trial where the lawyer followed the Impeachment guide and the witness corrected themselves once they figured they were almost going to become impeached. However, the lawyer still went through the entire impeachment process and impeached the witness. If this happens, people will notice and the lawyer will lose points for not noticing that you’ve corrected yourself. I noticed what happened and was wondering why the lawyer was still going through the impeachment process.
  • I watched a trial in a tournament where the one team would have their witnesses lie on everything so that their witnesses could look better. Thankfully, the other team knew they were lying and impeached them on every answer they provided. We ended up going through 8 impeachments before the Judge in the trial said “enough” and made the witness get off the stand.

The morale of the story is: just don’t be messy.

Creating and Developing a Character for a Witness Role


This article will primarily cover how to create a character for a witness.

Before we begin, let’s list out the three different witnesses there are in a Mock Trial case. The three most common witness types are:

  • Fact Witnesses – A witness that can give testimony that is limited to what they’ve observed or personally experienced.
  • Character Witnesses – A witness that can give background about the defendant–both good and bad experiences.
  • Expert Witnesses – A witness that can infer opinions due to their expert knowledge in a specified field.

Developing the Character

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.~ Arthur Ashe

Developing a character may seem daunting but it’s quite simple. You use what you have based on the context clues given in the witness statement. If your character is a farmer, you may want to dress down a little (depending on if it’s allowed by the competition rules) and talk like a local farmer. If your character is a sophisticated CEO, you may want to dress up more and sound like a city slicker business person.

If you’re stuck on character development, try watching a movie or TV show. See how the main character acts and portrays their character. Look at the way they talk, dress, and use hand movements.

For example, take Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks). If you’ve watched Forrest Gump, you see the way Forrest Gump talks, walks, acts, and dresses fits his character. In contrast, Tom Hanks probably doesn’t talk, walk, or dress like Forrest Gump in real life. Your goal is to become an actor and play the character presented in your affidavit.

Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump in one of the famous bench scenes. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Another point to note! You should be careful and try not to use stereotypes. This is where character development becomes tricky because we don’t want to intentionally make anyone uncomfortable.

The Four Questions for Character Development

  • How does my witness talk?
    • Does my witness use slang?
    • Does my witness talk with a certain accent?
    • Does my witness talk professionally or not?
  • How does my witness dress?
    • Does my witness have a certain hair style?
    • Does my witness wear glasses?
    • If allowed, does my witness wear something other than a suit and tie?
    • Does my witness wear boring dress socks or interesting socks?
  • How does my witness act?
    • How does my witness walk?
    • How would my witness sit in a chair?
    • Does my witness want attention?
  • What impression do I want to give?
    • Is my witness funny?
    • Do I want to be happy? sad? anxious?
    • Does my witness want sympathy? Does my witness cry?
    • Is my witness well-mannered or ill-mannered?


Yes, this article is short.

Developing a character for a witness is like developing a character as an actor. You just use context clues in the witness statement just like an actor would use context clues in a script. Your job as a witness is to develop a character that people would easily understand and enjoy.

If you’re wondering how to develop your character even further, check out our guide on how to portray your character as a witness.

A Guide to Opinion and Expert Testimony Objections

An Overview of Opinion and Expert Testimony

Article VII (FRE 700 Series), otherwise known as the Opinion and Expert Testimony rules, provides guidance for the admissibility of a witnesses opinion and conclusions during their testimony.

A simple explanation and a reason why these rules exist is so that the court can tell the difference between bias and opinion from facts. Therefore, these rules lay out what is acceptable as testimony from lay (everyday people) and expert witnesses.

This article will go over the 5 rules that are laid out as:

  • Rule 701. Opinion Testimony by Lay Witnesses
  • Rule 702. Testimony by Expert Witnesses
  • Rule 703. Bases of an Expert’s Opinion Testimony
  • Rule 704. Opinion on Ultimate Issue
  • Rule 705. Disclosing the Facts or Data Underlying an Expert Opinion

Lay vs Expert. What’s the difference?

A witness can fall into two categories: lay or expert. Therefore, it’s good to know the differences between them.

  • A lay witness is your everyday person who is testifying the facts of what occurred, and not what they believe as an expert. For example, a lay witness can simply be the one who witnessed the crime of a bank robbery or the one who witnessed the victim falling inside a convenience store.
  • An expert witness is one that is qualified by a particular trait such as knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education and one that relies on scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge. They are allowed to infer what they believe using this knowledge and associated evidence when they are testified during trial. For example, a civil engineer can be entered in as an expert witness and can use research or domain knowledge to infer that a stop light was unsafe at a particular intersection.

Rule 701: Opinion Testimony by Lay Witness

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These rules allow certain opinions made by a lay witness to be heard. It explicitly defines what a lay witness is allowed to admit during testimony. However, in order for the testimony to be admitted, it must pass all three rules. The rules are:

  1. The witness must perceive these opinions out of their own senses (i.e., They came up with the conclusion using their senses)
  2. The witnesses opinion must advance the case or provide clarity to the case
  3. The witnesses opinion CANNOT include scientific or specialized knowledge.

If it passes all three rules, the opinion is allowed under Rule 701.

Rule 702: Testimony by Expert Witnesses

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These rules allow opinion testimony by a witness who is qualified to answer under their expert knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education. If they are not an expert in the specified field, they are not allowed to make opinion testimony under the subject.

In order for opinion testimony for an expert witness can be entered, it must pass the following tests:

  1. The witness must be an expert in their admitted field (i.e., A witness must be an expert in their field(s) before they can answer the question)
  2. The testimony must advance the case or provide clarity

These tests only apply to Mock Trial. In the real world, it must pass a few additional tests concerning the validity of the facts and data.

Rule 703: Bases of an Expert’s Opinion Testimony

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In Mock Trial, Rule 703 is a continuation of Rule 702. Specifically, Rule 702 answers “can the person give an opinion?”. Rule 703 answers “can the person tell you why they can give an opinion?”

These rules allow opinion testimony by an admitted expert witness. The rule states that the expert witness must form their opinion from facts or data within the scope of their knowledge. To further define:

An expert witness may form an opinion from facts or data from these sources:

  1. Personal Observation (field of work)
  2. Information at Trial
  3. Other Sources (academic papers not cited by the expert, interviews)

For example, an expert witness that is entered as an expert in mechanical engineering can form opinions based on their personal experience as a mechanical engineer, information that was presented during trial, and third-party academic papers or interviews.

Rule 704: Opinion on Ultimate Issue

This rule is often misunderstood and confused. There are different rules for different types of cases. We will break it down into what to do for a civil case and a criminal case.

Ultimate Issue – The question(s) the jury has to answer based on what they’ve heard or seen in trial.

In both civil and criminal cases, an attorney cannot object when a witness is asked to testify about the ultimate issue.

What to do in a Civil Case when it comes to Ultimate Issue

  • Nothing. An opinion about the Ultimate Issue is not objectionable.

What to do in a Criminal Case when it comes to Ultimate Issue

  • An expert witness cannot make an opinions about the motive regarding the ultimate issue
  • For example, the expert witness cannot say “In my expert opinion, the defendant had the motive/mindset/intent to commit the crime.” This is objectionable.

Rule 705: Disclosing the Facts or Data Underlying an Expert Opinion

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This rule basically states that an expert may state an opinion without having to disclose the facts or data.

However, if  the expert witness does make an opinion and they are asked to disclose the facts or data, they have to disclose it. This will typically occur during cross examination where the opposing counsel may ask to clarify their opinions using facts and data.