Strategies for Preparing a Witness Who Doesn't Care

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc


The performance of your witnesses is integral to securing a positive outcome for your case. Unfortunately, a witness who doesn't care, or doesn't seem to be interested in the case, can disproportionately impact settlement and trial outcomes. However, sometimes even a witness who did care initially can become overwhelmed or emotionally exhausted, letting those emotions affect their performance and causing them to become vague and apathetic.

While solid and effective depositions can help decrease a client's financial exposure and costs, the opposite also holds: weak, muddy, indifferent, or otherwise ineffective depositions result in more significant damages during settlement negotiations or at trial. In an era of neuropsychological manipulation and plaintiff reptile tactics, witnesses are even more susceptible to being thwarted by their emotions, including apathy. 

An apathetic witness could leave your case vulnerable to unpredictable situations, making it essential to accurately identify your witness' expressive style before deposition testimony and take steps to address and control it effectively. Through neurocognitive witness training, Courtroom Sciences can help trial attorneys ensure that witnesses can provide compelling testimony and help you secure a positive outcome for your case. 


How should an attorney work with a witness who doesn't care?

Regarding high-risk, emotional witnesses, including apathetic witnesses, the two ways to improve testimony performance are through cognitive reappraisal skills and practice. Cognitive reappraisal skills are taught to the witness so that they might reinterpret negative stimuli within the deposition environment as a neutral stimulus. Once witnesses have learned these skills, particularly those who don't care, they will need to practice them. The more they can practice, the more comfortable they can become with the process, and the less likely they will express unwanted emotions during the deposition. 


A Witness Who Doesn't Care

Often used to describe a lack of caring or concern, an apathetic witness appears as though they don't care and don't seem interested in or enthusiastic about their testimony. The negative, non-verbal message conveyed by apathy is powerful and memorable in a way that can override any quality verbal testimony the witness provides. Jurors frequently describe these witnesses as "cold," "callous," or "uncaring." Consequently, an apathetic witness quickly makes the plaintiff look more sympathetic and may increase damages, including punitive damages, even when jurors are unsure of the culpability of the defendant's company.

However, while it may seem surprising, apathy is not uncommon among witnesses invested in the case's outcome. In truth, rather than indicating that they are uninterested or uncaring, many of these witnesses are just unsure how to adequately express their negative internal states, including their thoughts and emotions. Overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, and without having ever adequately represented their emotional state as a coping mechanism, they have instead hardened themselves to the incident. These high-risk emotional witnesses can become incapable of relying on strategic responses learned in witness preparation sessions, allowing them to succumb to manipulative reptile questions, making critical errors, or even derailing the case. 


Preparation Strategies for a Witness Who Doesn't Care

Suppose emotional regulation skills are not put into place. In that case, witnesses with a high-risk emotional style, such as a witness who appears as though they don't care, can be disproportionately affected by manipulative questioning tactics used by plaintiff attorneys, including reptile attacks. This can cause an apathetic witness to respond from a place of emotion rather than rational cognition, potentially damaging testimony and leaving your case vulnerable to unpredictable situations.

For defense attorneys, mitigating the high-risk emotional state of a witness who doesn't care can be done through the following four steps:

● Identifying the pre-existing emotion

● Putting emotional regulation skills into place 

● Learning cognitive reappraisal skills 

● Continued practice and utilization of learned skills

Testifying at deposition or trial is an atypical experience for most witnesses, and an apathetic witness's ability to control emotion depends on having the capacity to modulate negative emotional responses through cognitive-emotional strategies. Learning and then practicing these skills can enable the witness to detect a dynamic threat from opposing counsel, calmly identify the threat as an attempt to bait the witness, and deliver compelling testimony.


Although it is understandable for witnesses to be emotional about the testifying experience, Courtroom Sciences knows that poor testimony during a deposition or trial can lead to bad outcomes, including nuclear verdicts. As part of the legal team, Courtroom Sciences' can help prepare witnesses with our psychology-based witness training that will allow them to provide robust and effective testimony when it matters the most. Speak with one of our experts to get started. 


Key Takeaways

● A witness who doesn't care, or doesn't seem to be interested in the case, can disproportionately impact settlement and trial outcomes.

● The negative, non-verbal message conveyed by apathy is powerful and can override any quality verbal testimony the witness provides.

● Apathy is common among witnesses who feel bad about the case's outcome.

● Mitigate the behaviors of a witness who doesn't care through learning and practicing cognitive reappraisal skills. 

● Courtroom Sciences' psychology-based witness training program will allow a witness to provide strong, compelling testimony when it matters the most.

Juror Confirmation Bias


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