Preparing a client to testify in a habeas corpus trial requires several steps. If you are a lawyer, you can learn more about how to do this on this page. For more information or to purchase our book, contact our office.
If the petitioner’s testimony proves one or more of the habeas claims. So, the petitioner must get prepared to testify. Many clients will not have testified at the original criminal trial or experienced giving testimony under oath. Further, responding to questions posed by a lawyer takes the kind of discipline normally not exercised in everyday life. Thus, habeas counsel should get the petitioner ready to testify to facts needed to establish claims in the petition. Also, they need to field questions on cross-examination. Counsel should review with the petitioner the areas or subjects that will get covered on direct examination. This includes some of the specific questions that will get asked.
Preparation to Testify
Counsel should also ensure that the petitioner’s memory of events is sufficiently refreshed. This includes his or her interaction with trial or appellate counsel. Habeas counsel should also review with the petitioner the reasonably anticipated questions on cross-examination. Also, they should review the need for the petitioner to keep their answers short and on point. Counsel should also explain to the petitioner that when an objection happens, the question should not get answered, if at all, until the court makes a ruling.
Related to the testimony of the petitioner at the habeas trial are two issues. First, if the petitioner’s testimony will pertain to only some of the habeas claims, then a ruling must be obtained, preventing the respondent, on cross-examination, from delving into the other claims. This can happen in advance of the testimony, see Practice Book §§ 15 -3 and 42-15, or during the testimony with a “beyond the scope” objection. Second, and arguably more important, a ruling should get obtained in advance of the testimony that the respondent is precluded from examining the petitioner on the historical facts of crime, as this will infringe on the petitioner’s constitutional and statutory right to remain silent and to due process of law at any retrial. Here, the protective order provisions contained in Practice Book §§ 13-5 and 40-40, et seq., should get utilized.