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What is a Cross-Examination?

Just as it is essential to understand the direct examination, it is crucial to understand the cross-examination of a witness. Let’s discuss the differences between direct and cross-examinations, how cross-examinations reduce credibility, and why cross-examinations are so important.

What’s the Difference?

Direct examinations come before cross-examinations. This is where lawyers call their witnesses to the stand and ask them evidence questions. These questions can be based on direct evidence or circumstantial evidence. The witnesses are told to give their honest testimonies based on the questions asked by the lawyer. The cross-examination follows the direct examination. During the cross-examination, the lawyer for the defendant will ask the witness questions to disprove or reduce the witness’s credibility.

How do Cross-Examiners Reduce Credibility?

Leading Questions.

During cross-examination, a lawyer can ask leading questions. This is because the purpose of cross-examination is to test the witness’ credibility of the statements they made during the direct examination. During cross-examination, the witness is questioned by the lawyer who did not initially call them to the stand, so it is more likely the witness will stand against any false suggestions.

Prior Inconsistent Statements.

One step lawyers may take while attempting to reduce credibility is using prior inconsistent statements. Once the witness has committed to their new statement, it becomes increasingly difficult for the witness to backtrack. Then, the lawyer will confront the witness with their inconsistencies. They will present the witness with their original statement and compare it to the inconsistent statement made in court.

Poor Recollection.

Another strategy to discredit a witness is by proving they have a poor recollection. Issues with recollection can become a massive problem if they give a statement important to the case. Effective cross-examination will show the court that the witness cannot recall sufficient details of the event, thus harming their credibility. This also indicates that if the witness cannot specifically remember important events, it could be likely that they did not occur.

Why are Cross-Examinations so Important?

An effective cross-examination can be the difference between winning and losing a case. They take time and effort to prepare and are incredibly important in testing the evidence in a case. Cross-examinations are critical to a fair trial, and witnesses must be checked and tested so a verdict is not decided based on false testimony.

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