A Civil Action - The Woburn Toxic Trial > Learning Modules > Deposition of Witnesses

Module 10: Deposition of Witnesses

Module Goals

Student Assignment

Overview

Part of a pretrial process includes getting statements from individuals who are likely to be called to testify in court. Depositions are intended primarily to find out what the other side knows. Unlike Hollywood trials, real trials did not permit "surprise evidence". Depositions are completed during the fact-finding or discovery stage,and information that is not brought forth during this period typically is inadmissible during a trial.

Activities preceding a deposition.

Prior to deposing individuals, attorneys from the plaintiffs will typically submit interrogatories, or written questions to the defendants. The exchange between the plaintiffs in the defense may be ongoing for an extended period of time as information is obtained. During this questioning it's quite often to ask names of those who have specific knowledge regarding the plaintiffs case. These individuals are to be identified as accurately as possible by the defense. If the defense intends to use expert witnesses, an affidavit (see this link for a definition of affidavit) describing the opinion of the expert is to be provided as part of the discovery process. This affidavit usually serves as the basis for beginning depositions of the experts.

The setting of the deposition

Depositions are typically conducted at the offices of the attorney conducting the interview. Those in attendance typically are the attorney or the team of attorney's conducting the deposition, legal representation for the individual being deposed and a court stenographer. The questioning is done under oath and any response is admissible. The format of depositions usually requires the individual being questioned to respond to the questions. Sometimes counsel for the deposed can object to questioning, however, it is common for the questioner to demand a response. Often the strategy of the deposing attorney is too unnerve the individual being questioned, in order to get responses that may discredit that individual during the trial.

Student Assignment


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