Witnesses, examination in chief and 9 rules for cross examination

Always treat witnesses with respect and politeness.

Your questions should be

  1. Short
  2. Seek 1 fact at a time

Remember that: 1 question, 1 fact. Always.

Don’t be embarrassed by silence.

Don’t go “um”, “arh” etc.

Don’t say “ok” or “right” to the answers.

Don’t use fill-ins like “and” or “so”.

1 question, 1 fact.

Cross examination-9 rules

Before you start, ask yourself if you have to do it. Don’t do it if you can avoid it.

  1. Think commando-it’s a raid, not a siege. Get in and out. 1 question, 1 fact. Get what you want and need. Every question invites disaster to your case.
  2. When you have what you want, stop. Remember, you are looking to bolster your closing speech.
  3. Don’t ask a question to something to which you do not know the answer. Cross-examination is about getting the decision maker to see the case from your point of view.
  4. Always ask leading questions. Never ask an open question.
  5. Never ask a witness to explain. Never ask ‘why?’
  6. Do not ask conclusionary questions of the witness. Keep your commentary for your closing submission.
  7. Never ask the witness for help.
  8. Ask only 1 thing at a time.
  9. You bounce your case off the witness. It does not matter that he disagrees. Be polite, now rows. Look for the lever-the evidential inconsistency which will allow you to pull the evidential trap door on the witness.

Credit to Iain Morley Q.C. and his excellent “spry polemic”, The Devil’s Advocate.

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