How to Make and Argue the Narrative Objection in Mock Trial
There’s no hard and fast rule about this, but generally, a narrative is anything more than 3-4 sentences. You’ll develop a sense of when the witness is talking too much.
When to Make the Narrative Objection in Mock Trial
You object when the witness is rambling on and on.
You can also object when opposing counsel asks a question that asks the witness to ramble on and on. A judge may overrule the objection and let the witness answer to see if the answer is a narrative. But if that happens, renew your objection if the witness’s response does turn into a narrative.
There are few questions that are so broad that objecting to them as a narrative is worthwhile.
Q: What did you do on September 13, 2018?
It may be worth objecting to this question, since there is no limit to the number of things the witness could have done on this particular day. But it’s possible that the question can be answered succinctly. If you make an objection and it is overruled, listen carefully to the witness’s response and object if it becomes a narrative.
Q: Tell us everything you did on September 13, 2018.
The use of “everything” makes this a better question to object to. Listen for questions that ask about “everything” or “all” about a subject.
How to Make the Narrative Objection
- The witness has lapsed into a narrative.
- Objection, Your Honor. The question calls for a narrative.
If your objection is sustained, moving to strike generally isn’t necessary. You’ll make the objection as soon as the testimony turns into a narrative, so there typically isn’t anything you need to strike. When making the objection, your goal isn’t necessarily to keep out any testimony. Rather, your goal is to interrupt a rambling witness and make opposing counsel ask appropriate questions.
Arguing in Support of the Objection
Generally, there isn’t much you need to say to argue a narrative objection in mock trial. This is a call for the judge to make.
Opposing the Objection
Again there’s not much to say, since it’s up to the judge to determine whether testimony is a narrative or whether the question asks for a narrative response. But if there’s any way for you to give some objective measurement of how long the witness has been talking, that’d be great. For example:
- Your Honor, the witness has provided only 3 sentences of testimony.
You might also let the judge know that your witness is done speaking and that you will ask another question. For example:
- Your Honor, the witness has just completed his/her response.
If the objection is sustained, pick back up where the witness left off and break up the testimony by asking more specific questions. The witness should then provide direct answers to your specific questions.
This could be a good opportunity for both the attorney and the witnesses to show that they can think on their feet, by asking non-rehearsed questions and giving non-rehearsed testimony. Often, when a witness’s response gets interrupted, they re-start their response and provide the exact same testimony, word for word. It then becomes obvious that the witness has memorized a script. Instead, I recommend that the witness listen carefully to the attorney’s question and provide an answer, using their own words.
Here is an example of how to keep the witness’s testimony going after a narrative objection is sustained:
Q: What did you do on September 13, 2018?
A: I woke up at 7am, went to the gym, ate some breakfast, then drove to school. I had my psychology class at 9:30 am, and then a lunch break in the food court at noon. At 1:30, I went to my math class…
Counsel: Objection. The witness has lapsed into a narrative.
Q: What did you do after your lunch break?
A: I left the cafeteria and started walking to my math class at 1:30.
The narrative objection is a simple but powerful one to have in your mock trial objection tool belt. It can interrupt your opponent’s presentation, throw them off, or expose that they have simply memorized their direct examination. Have you tried any of the techniques discussed here? Let me know in the Comments section; I’d love to hear how it went!