Cross Examination

Ask any trial attorney and they will tell you that the most taxing task for an attorney is to cross examine a witness. Done right – it’s a thing of beauty. Done poorly – it’s hard to sleep that evening. It is wise to start preparing for cross examination at the same time as you develop a theme for your case. To prepare well for cross examination, you have to have a system that’s put in place immediately after taking a case. The system you put in place must be efficient; that is, a good system has you looking at all of the evidence and wringing it out as you would a towel. You try to get the juice out of the bottle so to speak. As you read things – whether it is a deposition, answers to interrogatories – you begin to post to one of three narratives. In the first narrative, you are concerned about posting to critical events. In the second narrative, you are concerned about chronology. In the final narrative, you compare the various versions given of the truth. These narratives are what assists the attorney in preparing for cross examination. All of the discovery information has been wrung dry. You’ve only looked at the important stuff. It’s all right in front of you now. You’ve taken 100+ page of stuff and squeezed it down to 10 or so pages (this is a metaphor – it changes from case to case). You now have wheat. The chaff has been set aside. It is from this wheat that you can begin to prepare a cross examination. When recording the various narratives, you write down source information. That way, when you are looking at a particular event, you know where to find the material. You also source the chronological data and the various versions of the truth. So what will you cross examine on? We will cross examine on anything that helps our theory of the case and destroys or helps destroy our opponent’s theory of the case. Each topic for cross examination will be considered a chapter. There will be one chapter per page of cross examination outline. The chapter/page will govern one topic only. The cross examination will be about provable facts. We know these facts are provable because we have the source material to back it up. Sometimes chapters are put together in clusters. Sometimes they are not. The trick is to figure out the chapters. To do this, we just have to think about what topics are useful. Once you decide that – and you decide that cross examining on that topic will advance the litigation theme – you are good to go. Someone doing a cross examination keeps their head up and their eyes on the witness. You never know what will come out of the witnesses’s mouth. You want to position yourself so you can hear it. Hearing what is said can alter the cross examination, but it is better to listen than to be stuck on your outline. Cross examination is a contest of wills. If cross examination is done well, it is the ttorney who is testifying not the witness. Witnesses being cross examined don’t like being controlled. In a good cross examination, that is exactly what happens – the witness is being controlled as they are being asked to admit what we believe to be verifiable facts.