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Posts Tagged ‘courtroom testimony’

Courtroom Couture: The Not Guilty Look

Posted by Writing PIs on April 27, 2019

I Look So Pure, I Couldn’t Possibly Have Done Those Bad Things

An article in today’s New York Times (Does This Dress Make Me Look Guilty?) reads like a courtroom catwalk, complete with pictures of famous people dressed to kill, so to speak, their alleged bad deeds in the minds of jurors and judges. Such as Anna Sorokin, the fake heiress, who bilked people, even a bank!, out of thousands of dollars. According to the article, a secret benefactor hired a professional stylist to dress Ms. Sorokin in clothes such as white, frothy baby doll dresses to give her the aura of purity and innocence. Add simple hairstyles, large “who me?” eyeglasses, and a knock-kneed stance for a touch of vulnerability, surely the jurors would be blinded by her innocence.

Didn’t work. The jury found her guilty of second-degree grand larceny, theft of services, and one count of attempted grand larceny. Perhaps she knew what was coming because she wore black on the last day of court.

Dress Codes Apply to Witnesses and Parties, Too

Famous defense lawyer Gerry Spence once represented a Wyoming beauty queen who was suing the publisher of Penthouse magazine, Bob Guccione, for defamation. Spence said he knew he had the upper hand when Guccione showed up to court in a flashy velour suit with his shirt unbuttoned to display heavy gold chains.

Court is not the place to flash jewelry and designer outfits — it’s a forum of respect and seriousness where persons appointed as magistrates or judges officiate in the administration of justice.

Bottom Line: Keep It Simple

Before we go to court, we advise clients on how to dress to impress, the low-key way. Keep it simple, conservative. Think “business casual.” More tips:

  • Dress as you would for church/place of worship.
  • Dress to cover tattoos and too much skin (women, keep skirts and dress lengths to just above the knee or longer, and no low-cut tops).
  • Keep nails short and polished in light color or clear.

Avoid the color red and don’t wear sunglasses (looks as if you’re hiding something)

  • Take out any piercings (earrings are fine, again keep it simple).
  • Plain colors or light patterns on clothes: no logos, brands, flashy statements.
  • Women: simple hairstyles, if hair is longer, pull it back with a clip or in a simple bun. Men: neatly cut, short hair.
  • Sensible shoes. No open toes.
  • Women: Keep make-up to a minimum.

Choose Suitable Colors

Wearing the right colors helps a person look healthier, younger, and refreshed. Here’s a few color suggestions:

Charcoal, Navy and Blue

In general, these are the best colors to wear to court. They’re not as severe as black, and for men, they complement many colors of shirts and ties. The other half of Writing PIs once attended a trial college where an instructor claimed that blue was the best color to wear to court because blue connoted “the truth.”

Never Wear Brown

That same trial college instructor lectured that one should never wear brown to court because used-car salesman wear brown suits, so wearing a brown connotes the image of a tire-kicking shyster. Lighter shades of brown, however, such as beige, work well, as do lighter shades of pastels.

Avoid Bright Colors

Bright colored clothes can be a distraction, or worse, a joke. We once observed a witness take the stand in a crayon-orange muscle shirt that displayed his bulging biceps and tattoos. You could see the looks of “What the?” on some of the jurors’ faces.

Links of Interest

Cardi B’s Courtroom Catwalk Continues (The Cut)

Dressing your client for success at deposition and trial (Plaintiff)

No defense for some courtroom attire (Chicago Tribune)

All Rights Reserved, Colleen Collins. Do not copy or distribute any content without written approval of the author. Images in this article are licensed by the author, who does not have the legal authority to share with others.

Posted in Real-Life Private Investigator Stories | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Courtroom Couture: The Not Guilty Look

10 Tips for Testifying in Court

Posted by Writing PIs on May 1, 2011


The ultimate presentation of an investigation is testifying in court, either before a judge or a judge and jury. The idea is to make an effective, articulate and organized impression on the fact-finder (the judge or jury).

If you were hired by an attorney, together the two of you will most likely prepare your testimony directly from the investigative reports you authored. Keep in mind that the reports themselves are not presented as evidence because they meet the definition of hearsay; however, well-written, clear, and informative reports support the testimony and help the lawyer immeasurably. If you were hired by a citizen, you need to make sure they read your reports. The burden is on you to make sure your client’s questions are organized, written down, and that they have rehearsed their direct examination of you.

To be most effective when testifying:

• Make eye contact with the jurors. If you look at the attorney when answering questions, it might look as though you’re unsure of what you’re saying or that you’re asking for help.

• Answer yes or no whenever possible.

• Never explain an answer, nor volunteer anything!

• Provide adequate detail, but scrupulously avoid being mired in too much detail

• Avoid equivocal or qualified answers.

• Dress professionally. Studies have shown that the colors blue (for men) and black (for women) make them appear more believable. Keep jewelry to a minimum.

• Use simple terms, common language.

• Be mindful of a jury’s sense of fairness.

• Know the facts, but don’t repeat the testimony word for word as though it were memorized.

• Don’t bring your investigative file to court. Anything you have in your hand (whether you’re on the stand or in court) can be admitted into evidence at the request of opposing counsel.

Perhaps the most important tip is to remain respectful of the court, the judge, the opposing counsel, and especially yourself.

Credit: by Colleen Collins, Highlands Investigations & Legal Services, Inc.
Originally published in PI Magazine, December 2010

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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