Question by defense counsel: Agent Wooster, the United States government spent over $1 million on this case, from the time of investigation until now, correct?
Answer by witness: How would I know that?
Question by defense counsel: You might know it because you were told so by your supervisor; you might know it because you filled out expense reports; you might know it because you reviewed the expenses log kept during the investigation. So I will ask you the question again: The United States government spent over $1 million on this case, from the start of investigation until today, didn’t it?
At this point, the prosecutor will likely object, saying: “Objection. What the government spent or did not spend has nothing to do with the crime charged in this case.”
That’s when defense counsel goes on with force: “It certainly does, Your Honor. If the prosecution has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in investigating this case, they may be tempted to cut corners to get a conviction, creating bias.”
To which the judge will hopefully say, “Objection overruled.”
This examination starts strongly. The examiner opens with a topic that interests the ordinary juror, i.e., possible squandering of government money. The objection gives the cross-examiner a chance to preview his closing argument in part.
Note that the cross-examiner didn’t complain when the witness asked him a question. Don’t dilute the impact of your point with quibbling over details and collateral matters. The witness’ question actually gave the examiner an excellent chance to make a point before repeating the original question.
Always keep in mind that, on cross-examination it’s the attorney, not the witness, who should be the focal point.
Get many more sample examinations and practical advice from experts in CEB’s Effective Direct and Cross-Examination, chap 5.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- 13 Routinely Helpful Cross-Examination Questions
- 8 Tips for Every Cross-Examination You Do
- Mastering the Art of Cross-Examination: Tips from a Judge
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