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The Top 3 Rules of Cross-Examination

May 20, 2022


Create better control of your cross-examination of any witness, including experts, with trial-proven techniques from cross-examination titans Larry Pozner and Roger Dodd.

In the latest edition of Cross-Examination: Science and Techniques, Pozner & Dodd walk through the art of cross examination to guide attorneys when preparing their cross, their witness charts and topic charts. They explain the difference between constructive and destructive cross, identify effective impeachment techniques and show how to make your cross advance your theory of the case.

The Top 3 Rules of Cross-Examination

1. Leading Questions Only

The Federal Rules of Evidence and the rules of evidence of all states permit leading questions on cross (Fed. R. Evid. 611(c)). Simultaneously, the right to use leading questions is almost wholly denied the direct examiner. This is the fundamentally distinguishing factor of cross. It is the critical advantage given us that must always be pressed. Cross-Examination: Science and Techniques, Third Edition §10.11

2. One New Fact Per Question

By placing only a single new fact before a witness, the witness’s ability to evade is dramatically diminished. Cross-Examination: Science and Techniques, Third Edition §10.24

3. Break Cross Into a Series of Logical Progressions to Each Specific Factual Goal

Cross of a witness is not a monolithic exercise. Instead, the cross of any witness is a series of factual goal-oriented exercises. The third technique of the only three rules of cross is to break the cross into separate and definable goals. Cross-Examination: Science and Techniques, Third Edition §10.47

Download a PDF of the top rules of cross-examination here.

What Is Cross Examination?

A cross examination is the formal interrogation of a witness called by the other party in a court of law to challenge or extend testimony already given.

According to the American Bar Association, when a lawyer for the plaintiff or the government has finished questioning a witness, the lawyer for the defendant may then cross-examine the witness. Cross-examination is generally limited to questioning only on matters that were raised during direct examination.

Opposing counsel may object to certain questions asked on cross-examination if the questions violate the state's laws on evidence or if they relate to matters not discussed during direct examination.

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