Cross-Examination: Chapter 26

Loops, Double Loops, and Spontaneous Loops

Some witness answers matter more than others and deserve highlighting.  In essence, the lawyer wishes to “plant a flag” on that fact.

The techniques of looping, in all its various forms, are flag-planting techniques designed to call additional attention to a fact of importance.

Unaided by the technique of looping, lawyers often attempt to emphasize words and phrases by re-asking the question or by repeating the answer.  This technique is flawed both legally and ethically.  This undermines the cross-examiner’s personal credibility.

The technique of looping provides a subtle method of adding emphasis without encountering the drawbacks inherent to the “re-asking” method.  It does so by capturing the answer form the witness and reinforcing it rather than questioning it.  It is the repetition of the fact that provides the emphasis.

The goal of the cross-examiner is to loop powerful words and images tied directly to the cross-examiner’s theory of the case.

Looping is a learned skill.  The easiest words to loop are descriptive words, such as adjectives.

Looping helps to label exhibits and eliminates the necessity of the judge or jury to memorize the exhibit number.

If a date of a particular event is important to the theory of the case, then a way to productively label and loop is to refer to the event by its date.

When using loops in the cross examination of an expert, loop conclusionary terms used by the opposing expert and pair them with other facts that contradict the conclusionary term.

The cross-examiner can reverse the ordinary loop process to lock in the cross-examiner’s characterization of the subjective fact.

3 Looping Techniques

1. Simple Loop (prepared before trial)

a. Through a leading question establish the desired fact or phrase.

b. Use the fact or phrase established within the body of the next question, but without re-asking the fact; and,

c. Connect the looped fact or phrase with a question that contains an undisputed fact.  Attach the looped fact to a safe fact in the second questions.

2. Double Loop (prepared before trial)

a. Establish first desired significant fact.

b. Establish second desired significant fact.

c. Loop both facts together in a third question and later questions.

d. Always tie the double loop to a “safe” undisputed fact.

3. Spontaneous Loop

Use this technique when a witness gives an unexpected answer which has in it a helpful fact that substantially advances the lawyer’s theory of the case.  The witness makes the word choice in front of the jury and judge and can not disclaim it for the rest of the trial.

a. Listen.  Any answer other than a “yes” or “no” may offer an opportunity for the cross-examiner.  Listen with the cross-examiner’s theory of the case in mind.

b. Lift.  Extract any useful word or phrase from the answer.

c. Loop.  Use the helpful fact or phrase in the body of the next question.

d. Tie the spontaneous loop to a safe, undisputed fact.


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

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