Cross-examination should be brief and to the point.
Talk is not cheap when it comes to what you
spend your time on in cross-examination. Too
many lawyers, after making an important point,
go on to overdo it with too much talk. Don’t
gild the lily. But don’t forget to pause long
enough or otherwise make clear to the jury the
importance of what was said. Make your major
points short, simple, and to the point, then
move on to the next subject.
Be firm but always fair in cross-examination. Your
credibility depends upon the impression you
make on the jury. At all times, you need to be
firm, professional, and fair with the witness.
Make sure you get an answer to your question,
but don’t brow-beat the witness to get it. Jurors
start out by identifying with the witness, not
the lawyer, and they regard the overly aggressive lawyer on cross-examination as being
unfair. Jurors expect professional conduct
from credible and trustworthy lawyers. Be professional and never be a bully or a showboat.
If you use exhibits or slides, do it right. There is nothing worse for a jury than cross-examination
about an exhibit they aren’t shown. If you are
going to talk about an exhibit, make sure it is
admitted and that you show or share it with the
jury. If you use illustrative slides on cross-examination, be sure they are well done and don’t
violate the basics of good visuals. Slides that
have too many words or print too small to read
should never be used.
Historically, lawyers have argued about “the most important part of trial” without any consensus of opinion
about the answer. One thing we do know, however, is
that jurors are attentive to cross-examination. You can
usually count on having the jury’s attention at the start
of cross-examination, so plan it well, with a powerful
start, and end with a strong finish. Follow the basics of
good cross-examination to improve your chances of
doing an efficient and effective job. The most important secret to good cross-examination is preparation
and planning. Take the time to do it right. You owe it
to your client. NWL
PAUL N. LUVERA is the
past president of the
Washington State As-
sociation for Justice
and the Inner Circle of
Advocates as well as
a member of the American College of
Trial Lawyers, International Academy
of Trial Lawyers, and International
Society of Barristers. He has taught
at the Trial Lawyer’s College and is
the only Washington lawyer inducted
into the National Trial Lawyers Hall
of Fame. He can be contacted at
firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog is: www.
1022 NW Marshall Street #450 Portland OR | (503) 226-6361 | paulsoncoletti.com
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