Trial lawyers think differently from other human beings when they evaluate a person. First, they evaluate what the person has to offer in the case in the context of the rules of evidence. The trial lawyer ponders whether or not what the witness has to offer is admissible in evidence. If the witness hurts the case, the lawyer may move to keep the witness off the stand or exclude part of the witness’s testimony as inadmissible under the rules of evidence. If what the witness offers is helpful, the lawyer comes to court prepared to argue it is admissible under the rules.
Second, the trial lawyer evaluates what the witness has to offer in terms of whether it helps or hurts the case. Obviously, if it hurts, the lawyer turns to the rules of evidence in hopes of being able to keep the witness off the stand or exclude the harmful part of the witness’s testimony. Conversely, if what the witness offers is good for the case, the trial lawyer will want the witness to take the take the stand and get the evidence the witness can provide admitted into evidence.

With those two concepts in mind, consider Donald Trump’s involvement in the E. Jean Carroll case in which the jury awarded plaintiff Carroll $83.3 million. Defense counsel called Trump to the stand, and he testified for around three minutes. 

Let’s evaluate Trump as a witness from the plaintiff’s lawyer’s perspective utilizing the two criteria—admissibility of the evidence and whether or not the evidence is helpful or harmful. Regarding admissibility of the evidence, to the extent that Trump wanted to continue denying he sexually assaulted Carroll, the plaintiff’s had the court’s ruling on the evidence that that issue had been resolved during the first trial and that testimony that the sexual harassment did not happen would not be allowed. 

Second and most fascinating is how the two sides evaluated what Trump contributed to the case in terms of whether it was good or bad. It’s hard to fathom why defense counsel put him on the stand and let him behave the way he did in the courtroom. He offered little during his three minutes on the stand.

Plaintiff’s counsel were delighted by Trump’s performance and gave it high marks for helping the plaintiff’s case. As they have said in public interviews after the trial, the plaintiff’s themes for the case were that Trump was a bully who thought the rules did not apply to him, and Trump’s courtroom behavior offered corroboration for those themes. Trump not only spoke loudly so the jury could hear him when he should not have done so, and he walked out the courtroom during opposing counsel’s closing argument, which is a breach of courtroom decorum. 

The court probably instructed the jury to evaluate a witness’s testimony in terms somewhat along these lines:

“In considering a witness’s testimony, you may consider these things: the opportunity of the witness to observe or know the things they testify about; the ability of the witness to observe accurately; the quality of a witness’s memory while testifying; the manner of the witness while testifying; any personal interest that the witness might have in the outcome or the issues; any bias or prejudice that the witness may have shown; the reasonableness of the witness’s statements in the context of all of the other evidence; and any other factors that affect your evaluation or belief of a witness or your evaluation of his or her testimony.” (Emphasis added)

Also, the jury was considering punitive damages – what it would take to stop Trump from defaming Carroll – and his demeanor and behavior didn’t help him.

Clearly in the minds of E. Jean Carroll and her lawyers, Trump’s demeanor and behavior helped their case. Short cross-examination if any was called for.