Lay witnesses. Whether you call them eyewitnesses, ‘before and after’ witnesses, or damages witnesses, you need them to help you make your case. And sometimes the most unexpected ordinary people can be the greatest witnesses.
“There’s obvious ones like the spouse or the children or family members of your plaintiff. But beyond that, there’s coworkers, there’s neighbors, there’s the pastor, there’s the guy that runs a corner store at the end of the block, their kid’s teacher…it could be a whole universe of people out there.”
On this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael Cowen and Malorie Peacock explore how to identify potential lay witnesses and the importance of building trust with these witnesses to ensure that they feel comfortable disclosing pertinent information. They also examine the importance of obtaining visual evidence, such as photos and videos, to make events more real for jurors. But when it comes to getting these lay witnesses, lawyers have to be willing to do the legwork.
Tune in to gain valuable insights and strategies for building a compelling case through effective lay witnesses.
Name: Malorie J. Peacock
About: Malorie J. Peacock is a Partner at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock. She was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and received her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. During her time with Cowen Rodriguez Peacock, Malorie has worked on numerous commercial vehicle, trucking, and wrongful death cases. Malorie brings close attention to detail, commitment to finding safety issues and areas of neglect, continued utilization of technology and cutting-edge visuals in cases, along with a sincere passion to help those who have been hurt, to each and every case.
[03:28] Don’t call lay witnesses “moaners and groaners”: Labels and words matter because they impact client and staff mindset. Clients are supposed to be survivors and not victims.
[05:59] Bullseye of witness credibility: Michael emphasizes the need to go beyond the obvious best friends and family members when identifying witnesses.
[08:48] Demystifying the legal system for witnesses: Lay witnesses don’t have any experience with the legal system. What they know is what they see on TV and it’s super dramatic. So explaining that to them is important in order for them to be comfortable in sharing their stories.
[13:30] The magic number for lay witness selection: Michael explains their process for getting quality witnesses.
[14:21] How to build trust with lay witnesses: Michael and Malorie share their insights on what you need to do to find, meet, and earn the trust of lay witnesses, and whether you meet them individually or in a group setting.
[27:26] Extracting the best witness testimony: Michael and Malorie emphasizes the importance of tailoring questions to the witness, the nuances of guiding non-natural storytellers in describing experiences, and how exploring the before & after of the plaintiff’s life can provide a richer narrative for the court.
[29:23] Using visuals to connect, comfort, and convince: Learn how the use of visuals provided by lay witnesses not only contributes to the credibility of a witness’s testimony, but also serves as a tool to calm nervous witnesses and help them relate their story with more ease and confidence.
[33:01] Nobody gets the witnesses that lawyers get: While you may be able to have your paralegal get things started, putting in the work yourself can lead to the discovery of more witnesses and better witnesses to build a compelling case, understand your client’s story, and tell it at trial.
[35:37] The impact of early lay witness disclosure: Grasp how this strategy can shape the opposition’s perspective and recognize the dual role it plays – fostering comprehensive case readiness and sending a strong signal to the defense about your intentions.
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In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.