5 Effective Cross Examination Techniques

April 11, 2012 — 1,318 views  

The cross examination process during a trial is one of the most important events for both the prosecution and defense. Witnesses are under oath to provide accurate testimony, and the right questions can bring out facts that may seem trivial but could prove to be critical in determining the outcome of a trial. There are many effective techniques when questioning a person on the stand, and the following are five of the most reliable.

1.) Constructive cross examination - This is essentially using the witness as your support. Phrasing like "So, we may agree that..." confirms the witness' agreement with your point and directly affirms this to a judge or jury.

2.) Destructive cross examination - The opposite of the constructive method. You should ask invasive, somewhat uncomfortable questions that invite the witness to disagree with you. Your objective is to limit the credibility of their testimony by revealing inaccuracies.

3.) Keep it short and simple - Questions should never be long and complicated, and neither should the answers - simple "yes" or "no" responses cannot be misinterpreted or disguised by an evasive witness.

4.) Keep the witness on point - If your witness is deliberately or unconsciously drifting away from the point you are trying to establish, either directly bring this to their attention or ask subsequent questions to keep them on track.

5.) Do not go off on unrelated tangents - The worst thing an examiner can do is waste time on exhausting tangents. Judges and jury members often remember the first and last things they hear, so make sure you rest your case after a factual response.