When it comes to testifying, the first and most fundamental rule is to tell the truth. In addition to the obvious reasons, it’s hard to trick or trap someone who’s telling the truth about everything. But sometimes witnesses are afraid to admit to mistakes or biases and inadvertently appear less than honest.
A witness’s deposition can be used for impeachment (i.e., to attack the witness’s credibility) by showing that the testimony on the stand isn’t consistent with the deposition testimony or “for any other purpose permitted by the Evidence Code.” CCP §2025.620(a). The quoted language permits the deposition to be used to show both prior inconsistent statements (Evid C §1235) and prior consistent statements (Evid C §1236). Next time you have depo testimony that will impeach a witness, follow these 10 steps.
Your approach to cross-examination will vary depending on the “type” of witness being examined, e.g., the hostile witness, the flippant witness, the timid witness, or the sympathetic and truthful witness. But regardless of which type you’re dealing with—which can even change during your examination—there are some universal principles of cross-examination that apply in any situation.
You know you can get business records into evidence under an exception to the hearsay rule, but you’re not exactly sure how to do it. It’s simply a mechanical process—just get your witness on the stand and follow these nine steps.
When conducting direct examination, you generally can’t ask leading questions, i.e., ones that suggest a particular answer. Evid C §§764, 767(a)(2). And, of course, you can’t ask objectionable questions. For inexperienced practitioners, it can be hard to craft acceptable and effective questions while in the stressful moment. Practicing your questions in advance will be a great help, as will reviewing both positive and negative examples.