How To Become A Successful Cross-Examiner Guideline to Become a Successful Cross-Examiner Legal Expert Opinion


The main object of cross-examination is to find out the truth and detection of falsehood in human testimony. It is designed either to destroy or weaken the force of evidence a witness has already given in person or elicit something in your favour which he has not stated or to discredit him by showing from his past history and present demeanour that he is unworthy of credit.

Firstly it is to get something no matter how small, to help your own case. If you fear further examination is dangerous and absolutely fruitless it is far better to leave it alone and far better to stop the witness if you feel that what you are getting is not as a fact aiding or assisting your client in the litigation.

Secondly, Another object is when you cannot get that which helps your client, try to get something to weaken your opponent but that is got by a different process entirely.

To desroy or weaken the force of his testimony in favour of the other side- If this be your design, you can attain it only by one of two processes. you must show from the witness’s own lips, either that what he has stated is false or that it is capable of explanation. If your opinion be that he is honest but prejudiced; that he is mistaken; that he has formed a too hasty judgement, and so forth your bearing towards him cannot be too gentle, kind and conciliatory.

Approach him with a smile, encourage him with a chearing word, assure him that you are satisfied that he intends to till the truth and the whole truth, and having thus won his good will and confidence, proceed slowly, quitely, and in a tone as conversational as possible to your object and here, at the the very outset, let us warn you against exhibiting any kind of emotion during cross-examination: especially to avoid the slightest show of excultation when the witness answers to your sagacious touch and reveals what apparently he intended to conceal. It startles him into self-command, and closes the portal of his mind against more closely than ever.

” You have put him upon his guard and defeated yourself.

Let the most important answer appear to be recieved  as calmly and unconsciously as if it were the most trivial of gossip.

When therefore, it is your purpose to show from the witness’s own lips that he was mistaken, the extremest caution is required in approaching him. You must wear an open brow, and assume a kindly tone. Let there be in your landuage no sound of suspicion. Intimate to him delicately your confidence that he is desirous of telling the truth, and the whole truth. Be careful not to  frighten him by point-blank questions going at once to involve him in a contradiction, or he will see your design, and thwart it by a resolute adhesion and some questions that relate to other matter, and then gradually coming round to the desired point and even when you haved neared the desired point, you must endeavour, by every device your ingenuity can suggest to avoid the direct question, the answer to which necessarily and obviouly involves the contradiction.

The safer and surer course is to bring out the discrepancy by the inference, that is, instead of seeking to make the itness unsay what he has said, it should be your aim to elicit a statement which may be shown by argument to be inconsistent with the former statement.

The second object of cross examination is to elicit something in your favour. The method of doing this depends upon the character of the witness. If you believe hime to be honest and truthful, you may proceed directly to the subject matter of your inquiry, with plain point-blank questions. But if you suspect that he will not readily state what he is aware of the precautions requisite for the cross examination of a witness who is not altogather trustworthy. The most cautious cross-examination of a witness will not always prevent the disagreeable incident of an answer that tells strongly against the questioner. When such a contretemps occurs to you, do not appear to be taken by surprise. Let neither countenance, nor tone of voice, nor expression of annoyance, show you are conscious of being taken aback. If other exhibit surprise, be you as calm and will repel the force of the blow, for seeing that you are not perplexed by it, the audience may suppose it not to be so important as they deemed it to be or they give you credit for some propounder purpose than is apparent, or that you are prepared with a contradiction or an explaination. Sometimes indeed, where the blow has been more than usually staggering it may not be bad policy to weaken its force by openly making light of it, repeating it, taking a note of it, or appending a joke to it.

At no time is self command more requisite to and advocate than at suc a moment, and never is the contrast between experience and inexperience, the prudent and the injudicious, more palpably exhibited.

The third object of cross examination is to discredit the witness.

Object of cross examination is to track the correctness of evidence in examination in chief:


Q. Did you weigh it with the same shot?

Ans. I weigh it with the same shot of the same number, for I had no other number.

Q. How much less did it weigh?

Ans. Twenty four grains less

In criminal trials, cross-examination shall have the following objecs:

  1. To show that the witness did not see that he said he saw; as, that the witness, who said he saw the prisoner at a particular place, did not see him there; or, that the witness, who said he saw the prisoner coming from a particular place, was at the time of seeing him (as he said), unable, from the distance (220 yards) of the prisoner from him, to recognise the prisoner, to distinguish his features, to know him to be the prisoner, or, that the witness who said, he see the prisoner fired a pistol at another man, was, at the time of seeing him (as he said), unable from the distance of (220 yards) of the prisoner from him to recognise the prisoner.
  2. To show that the witness did not hear what he said he heared; as, that the witness, who said he heard particular words spoken by the prisoner to a clamorous mob, was at the time he heard hthe words, under agitation of mind, was in a degree in a considerable fury of spirits; or that, at the time of a mob, and addressed to the witness and others, the witness being neared to the speaker, there wa a good deal of noise and confusioon, and that the witness was alarmed; and that considering the noise that prevailed at the time the witness’s situation, and his alarm, the witness might not able to swear positively to the precise words used.
  3. To show that the witness spoke from hearsay; as, that the witness, who said a mob set fire to a chapel did not see them doing it; that it was on fire  when the witness first saw it, and who set it on fire who did not know; nor did he know that it was a chapel, only somebody told him so.
  4. To test the truth of what the witness has said in general terms, by making him particularize: as when the witness has spoken in general terms of many person, for instence, spoken in general terms of many persons who were present at a particular place, or test the truth of the witnesses, evidence by asking him to tell the name of some persons, of the name of even one person present, or forced to do the act mentioned; or when the witness has given evidence of words spoken by the prisoner to a large body of men, to test the truth of his evidence by asking the witness, whether he can name any person who was present when the prisoner spoke the words mentioned.
  5. To show that witness, who had identified a thing, had done so through mistake in a manner in which the identification had been or left to him as, where the witness had identifie a great-coat as the greatcoat worn by the prisoner on a particular occasion, and the witness in his cross examination was asked, whether the great coat was not produced to him as the great-coat the prisoner had on; whether it was produced to him as the great-coat the prisoner had on; whether it was produced to the witness singly or with any other great-coats.
  6. To procure an explaination of words used by witness; at that, the witness who said the prisoner was at home on particular days, did not mean that the prisoner go out on those days, but only that he was at home for some part of each of those days.
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