Most would agree that a lot of time, energy, and expertise go into litigation. As court reporters, we have an insider’s perspective on what may or may not work in the courtroom. Here are five real-life examples showcasing how the effective use of cross-examination can make or break a case. Some of the examples below may be comical, but the spirit of the content is based on real cases. After reading, please feel free to comment on how cross-examination has helped with your litigation efforts.
#5: Cross-examination provides the opportunity to paint a picture using your version of the facts. It allows you to, in effect, testify for the witness, demonstrate your knowledge of the facts, and potentially create a no-way-out situation.
Real-Life Example: “Mr. Johnson, when did you first commit adultery?”
Why It’s Effective: This type of question immediately puts the witness on the defense, which may result in the witness committing perjury or testifying inconsistently.
#4: Cross-examination can be a great tool for attorneys to tell a compelling story using well-planned questions while demonstrating to the fact finder their familiarity with the case.
Quick tip: Remember to keep it simple: only one fact, only one answer.
Real-Life Example: “Mr. Smith, you were out so late last weekend that you didn’t feed the children their dinner; isn’t that right?”
Why It’s Effective: The question gets right to the point without any cues to the witness as to where you’re headed and then seeks a yes-or-no answer.
#3: In cross-examination, leading questions slant the odds in your favor to elicit desirable testimony for your case.
Real-Life Example: “Mr. Green, is it true you like to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and gamble?”
Why It’s Effective: Leading questions like this one give the attorney more control over the pace at which information is elicited. It should be noted that videography is priceless when asking this type of question!
#2: Cross-examination is an opportunity to challenge a witness by pointing out earlier inconsistencies, shining light on the witness’s lack of knowledge or candor, and thereby influencing the factfinder to give the testimony less weight or even none at all.
Real-Life Example: “Mr. Moore, you testified on direct examination that your wife never offered to give you make-up parenting time for the time you missed during your business trip in November 2015; isn’t that true?”
Why It’s Effective: This question would then be followed by questions relating to that Disney vacation in November of 2015 immediately after the witness has reaffirmed his inaccurate assertion.
#1: Cross-examination is your opportunity to capitalize on the stress of testifying! It allows you to advance your theory of the case and control the flow of testimony.
Real-Life Example: “Mr. Baker, besides wine, strip clubs, and whores, do you have any other hobbies?”
Why It’s Effective: No explanation needed! The question places your version of the facts before the fact finder while asking the innocuous question: Do you have any other hobbies? (Nobody really cares about that stamp collection now!)