Cross-examination can be challenging and intimidating for the attorney conducting it as well as for the witness. The initial decision about how to conduct cross-examination depends upon the general approach of the lawyer, who the
witness is, and what the testimony being offered is. Some lawyers are
more intellectual and logical and, as a result, think of cross-examination from that standpoint. Their cross is focused chiefly on challenging
the testimony or opinions of the witness. The downside of this kind of
cross-examination is that it can become a confusing struggle between
attorney and witness without any clear “winner.” While attacks on
the substance of relevant and important testimony are important, be
careful that your cross-examination doesn’t become just a confusing debate.
However, when the primary goal is to challenge the credibility of the
witness—with only targeted challenges to the accuracy of the testimony—the focal point of cross-examination becomes the believability
and trustworthiness of the witness rather than the specific testimony.
A credibility cross-examination avoids the risk of the examination becoming a bewildering argument between two people. If you undermine
credibility, it doesn’t make a lot of difference what the witness testified
to, if the jury doesn’t believe him or her. Further, in my experience,
jurors tend to focus more on the general impression the witness and
lawyer make rather than the substance of what the witness says.
Whatever approach you choose to use in conducting a cross-examination, consider these principles as you prepare:
12 Basic Rules
by Paul Luvera
is the greatest legal
engine ever invented for
the discovery of truth.
You can do anything
with a bayonet except
sit on it. A lawyer can
do anything with cross-
examination if he is
skillful enough not to
impale his own cause
—John Henry Wigmore