Let’s say you have your client on the witness stand, you’ve spent hours training and going over all the questions and all the scenarios that could come about and then…and then,your client says something in response to cross examination that is from "left field", completely not expected, and something not good that could substantially damage the case. Possibly your client loses his or her temper and in so doing says something that is either inaccurate or something that just doesn’t come across right. What do you do then?
Well,you’ve got to correct it on what is called redirect testimony. This is where, really, lawyers make their money. It’s very easy to plan and prepare and have all your questions in a nice little order. But what does happen when your client says something that could be construed as extremely damaging?
The answer – you’ve got to rehabilitate.
We have to figure out on the run how to rehabilitate the client in the jurors’ eyes. Was it a mistake? Was it a complete error that the client made? Was it a mistake in fact that only requires a re-question – in other words if the client was questioned again about it in another way the client would likely correct the mistake on their own. That’s if it is an issue of an incorrect, and correctable answer.
But what if the client has lost his temper or has taken on the defense attorney, who the client perceives as the enemy and is feeling badgered. Then you’ve got to rehabilitate the person. It’s not necessarily rehabilitating a fact which you can correct with the correct fact. But if a personality comes out that is completely different from what you have portrayed throughout the trial this could cause a major problem.
How do you rehabilitate that situation?
Sometimes there’s no real answer, we just have to kind of feel our way through it and keep at it until we have softened the client down to a degree where at least the jury understands why the guy or gal lost their temper. Very difficult situation. But that’s one that you have to handle