Cross-Examination: Chapter 1

Cross examination is not to be a battle with the witness. It is a way for an advocate to show a witness’s direct testimony is out of context, exaggerated or simply false. It is a method to establish control. The cross-examiner controls all aspects of the questions asked, the witness’s duration of time on the stand, and even when and where and if the witness can and will move about the courtroom during the line of questioning. View the opponent’s witness as an equal opportunity to develop the case. Cross-examination helps fill in facts of the story you are telling to the jury.

Cross –examination often in solely considered an “art”. Most attorneys have been taught “you either have it or you don’t.” However, there are techniques that not only safely produce useful material, but also provide methods of effective cross-examination. These techniques also serve as a rejection of the conception that trial skills can only be learned in trial. Cross-examination can be taught, learned, and practiced.

Cross-examination cannot hope to be effective without thorough preparation. When the major cross-examinations are thoroughly understood and prepared, the theory of the case and its theme phrases inevitably flow. Opposing counsel will have to re-evaluate the risk of their witness testifying if they know the attorney is skillful at cross-exam.

When a cross-examiner controls the flow of information, frustration will build up in the witness and this frustration can be vented through vocal outbursts. This is a great result because these outbursts are rarely something that is helpful to their party’s case.

The rule of one fact per question means clarity and no compound questions or objections to compound questions. There is no confusion on the part of the witness as to what is asked. The one fact per question method is applied equally to motions. The simplified factual approach simplifies the judge’s chores. Using the systems of cross-examination-centered preparation saves times; therefore, more time is left for creative thought.

A fine cross-examiner seeks results not just merely style points.

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Filed under Cross-Examination: Science and Techniques by Pozner & Dodd

2 responses to “Cross-Examination: Chapter 1

  1. Excellent explanation of cross-examination. I would add that cross-examination is the advocate’s chance to re-tell his story to the jury — the story he reveals in his opening statement. Detailed story telling is the foundation of good cross-examination.

    • Kevin,

      Thanks so much for your comment and additional insight. Have you had a chance to read any of our other cross-exam summaries? We love the extra input and knowledge we get from readers. What kind of law do you practice?

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