Interviewing a witness requires thorough preparation. Ideally, you should have already prepared your list of questions before beginning your interview. Your questions must focus on gathering information about the witness’ actions and the case’s exact nature. The results of your interview must establish certain facts; where exactly was the witness when he or she allegedly witnessed something and if the witness really saw what your client allegedly did.
For a witness interview to be successful, you must do all that you can to help your witness paint a clear “word picture” of what he or she saw. This means that basic questions that could be answered with a yes or no won’t suffice. Opt for open-ended, leading, and probing questions to obtain the most accurate depiction of all the relevant activities and actions that happened, advises an experienced instructor at one of the top accredited online paralegal certificate programs in the country.
Make sure to pore through your client’s initial interview to check for any discrepancies so that you could try to clarify crucial information that your client might have forgotten to inform you. Likewise, make certain to review any extra information such as photos, maps, diagrams, arrest reports, and accident reports. Being prepared would save everyone involved lots of time and effort and more importantly, provide you with a complete and accurate statement of what really happened, why, and who did what to whom.
It’s important to note that how much your witness would divulge would depend on various factors, most of them you won’t have control over. And while some people would go out of their way to help you out, others might be downright uncooperative and hostile, or reticent unless prodded gently. You could, however, control how your witness would respond to you. This means that you must communicate to witnesses that you respect them and that you’re only after the truth.
Most importantly, you need to clearly and regularly communicate how thankful you are for their cooperation. All people want to know that what they are doing is worth something and that their contribution is invaluable so don’t forget to tell them any chance you get, because ultimately, the state of your witness could make or break your case.