Cross Examination Skills

Bald Eagle Cross Examination

In this episode of Mock Trial Flight School about cross examination skills, Attorney Brian Bellamy discusses the fundamental building blocks for examination of the adverse witness in a trial or mock trial setting. The discussion covers three critical aspects of a competent witness cross-examination: organization, persuasion, and style.

Mock Trial Flight School Episode 2

Cross Examination Basic Building Blocks

Try these True/False Questions about How to Conduct an Expert Cross-Examination

If you are uncertain of the answers, listen to Episode 2 of MTFS or refer to the show notes below. 

______ 1.

Cross examination should be arranged around the points being made.

______ 2.

During cross examination you should attack the witness’s credibility before trying to gain any admissions.

______ 3.

During the cross examination you should repeat the direct examination often.

______ 4.

During cross examination you should focus on making points that support your theory and theme.

______ 5.

If possible, ask only questions to which you know the answer during cross examination.

______ 6.

You should not avoid trying to fish for information that might benefit your theory of the case during the cross examination.

______ 7.

You should plan questions during cross examination so that if fishing for information and the wrong answer is received, the fact-finder will not notice.

______ 8.

During cross-examination you should use leading questions and avoid asking open-ended questions.

______ 9.

It is important during cross examination to ask both factual questions and for opinions and conclusions of the witness.

______ 10.

In a cross examination, you should ask for more than one fact at a time.

Answer Key: T, F, F, T, T, F, T, T, F, F

Show Notes and Outline for MTFS Ep. 2

3 Keys to Cross-Examination

  • Organization
  • Persuasive Methodology
  • Style

1. How to organize the cross-examination persuasively and logically

  • arrange around the big points supporting the case theory
  • gain admissions of key facts
  • avoid repeating direct examination

2. How to make the cross-examination more persuasive

  • limit to points that support your case theory and theme
  • limit to questions you know the answer to and avoid fishing
  • plan fishing questions carefully so that jury will not notice
  • use leading questions only
  • don't ask for opinions or conclusions
  • ask for one fact at a time
  • avoid trivial matters
  • use simple language
  • ask short questions
  • build in bits
  • torture key points
  • use headlines
  • be brief and concise

3. How to have an exciting and dynamic style

  • as an attorney on the cross, you are the STAR - don't give the witness center stage
  • maintain eye contact with the decision-maker(s)
  • use a dynamic voice and tone appropriate for the facts
  • use beneficial gestures
  • avoid reading questions, work from an outline - or, preferably, prepare so well that you don't use any notes - especially in a mock trial
  • don't be cross (i.e., mean), remember honey attracts more bees.

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