1. #1
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    Default Has Anyone Had to Testify for a Major Incident?

    Has anyone had to testify for a major fire or other incident?
    Our Chief spent six hours on the stand two weeks ago for a fire in a commercial building three years ago. I guess the insurance money in question is around $7 million dollars. Just throwing this out for discussion.
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    I was subpoenaed to testify in a murder trial for a DUI fatality I responded to, but they got the guy to plead on a lesser charge (manslaughter I think) and it never went to trial.

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    Yes.

    I had to testify at an inquest looking into the death of a 16 year old male while under retrsaint at a home for troubled teens, along with the other two firefighters that initially responded, the Paramedics and the BLS crew.

    If you ever have to testify, do yourself a favor...get a copy of the incident report and narrative. Hand it to all of those personnel who may be asked to testify..you all want to be on the same page.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Yes,

    I have testified in several major incidents, fires and homicides. The most time testifying was 3 days on the stand. If you have to go be very prepared. Don't open doors to questions on your own. Let the attorney's ask before you answer. Feet don't taste good, especially after you have been wearing boots.

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    Guys;

    Every first responder in this country has a tremendous resource right at their fingertips. The National Fire Academy has a new course called "Courtroom Preparation and Testimony for the First Responder". It is a two-day class that will prepare you for your testimony experience. It is being offered all over the place. Most State Weekend Programs have picked it up. I know I am teaching it in Ames. IA and Aztec, NM in February and Green Bay, WI in March.

    The price is right and the course is a good one.

    On a practical note, I spend half my life testifting. Preparation is the biggest thing. However, the preparation thing is just not your responsibility. Make sure the other attorney, be it a prosecutor or a ins. co. attorney spends time with you. In most courts, you are allowed to refer to your report and your notes while you are testifying to refresh your recollection. Just make sure your attorney has them, in order to turn them over the other side.

    The other thing is to always, always, always tell the truth. There has never been a case worth lying about. If you get caught, you're done. Be professional.

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    Default Gather 'round!

    We gather information at our department like every case will go to trial. If you have to go from memory, the other side will grill you and eat you. Some years ago, we had a real messy one. A family was moving, had everything in a moving van of a national moving company, including a mini-van! I didn't know that vehicles could be hauled INSIDE these haulers, but they can if the fuel tank has less than an eighth of a tank. Well, the mini-van caught fire. It started in the engine compartment, near the battery. The family lost everything, but their insurance company wouldn't pay. Since the mini-van was the cause, the moving company wouldn't pay. It turned into everyone was suing everyone. I got subpoenaed. The case was being heard in CA; a little too far away for me, so they agreed to depose me. So they flew an attorney to the local airport where we spoke for about two hours. My only regret was not calling in an expert on cause at the time of the fire. I never made that mistake again. Basically, everything I gave the attorney that day was "speculation", because I didn't have "credentials".
    Like George said, be prepared and if there is a gap, don't fill it in with speculation. If you don't know, say you don't know. AND NEVER ADMIT THAT YOU ARE AN EXPERT AT ANYTHING! Unless you have the credentials to back it up.
    Last edited by ChiefReason; 01-05-2003 at 12:04 PM.
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    George, good points, as usual. I to have been called to testify in a arson/murder/suicide case. Spent many hours on the stand answering questions about FD actions on the fireground. I kept my answers short and did not offer any more info than what was requested. If I didn't recall or if I didn't remember something, I stated so. Above all I always told the truth. In the world we live in now, I think the NFA course on court preparation is a must for all chief officers.

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    In any arson prosecution we do, the first witness on the stand is a fire fighter. My mom wasn't at the fire, an apple pie can't talk, and the Chevrolet won't fit in the courtroom. The next best thing is a fire fighter, in full dress uniform. It can often offset a weakness elsewhere in the case.

    The object of a prosecution is to recreate the crime in the mind of the juror. The fire fighter can take the jurors right into the fire with him

    We had one case where the prosecutor actually got in testimony of the fire fighter about how his kids felt when he left to go fight a fire. It was very, very effective.

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