What is Cross Examination in Criminal Trials?

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Ninety percent of all legal proceedings settle before they reach the courthouse. The ten percent of cases that reach a trial will likely have at least one eyewitness who will give a testimony to present facts about the case. At this stage of the proceedings, the judge and legal representatives from both side of the aisle have time to question witnesses to get a clear representation of the facts. Someone living in Los Angeles County will want an experienced Pasadena Criminal Attorney to cross-examine the witnesses, as each side will try to add credence, or impeach a case, depending on the witness testimony. There are four important stages of examining a witness: gathering facts, a direct examination, a supportive cross-examination, and a discrediting cross-examination.

The obvious first step to a strong cross-examination is preparation. An attorney will thoroughly study every detail regarding the case to best represent your interests. They will research similar cases to find a ruling that solidifies their position on an issue. A team of experts will perform background research on witnesses and prepare several questions for them to answer.

The best legal minds will perform several rounds of edits for each question to ensure they are clear, concise, and accomplish their goal of crediting or discrediting the witness. Before your client and witnesses are questioned by the opposition, it’s extremely important for your attorney to prepare them for an examination. It’s important to train your client to not divulge information unless it is necessary.

After opening statements have been made, and evidence is entered into the record, the prosecution will have the opportunity to directly question a witness. This examination elicits both direct and circumstantial evidence pertaining to the case. Circumstantial evidence can play a crucial role in convicting a plaintiff. For example, a witness saw the plaintiff enter the store, and run out shortly after with a gun in their hand. This testimony does not directly prove they robbed the store, but you could infer that it is very likely. Once the prosecution has examined the witness, the defense can cross-examine the witness.

A supportive cross-examination will bolster your stance on the case. This will support the plaintiff’s testimony that proves their innocence by adding credibility to their alibi. The best way to support your case is to find holes in the oppositions witness testimony and fill them in with information that supports your client. You want the jury to go into deliberation believing that your witness has more information proving innocence than the oppositions have to prove guilt.

A discrediting cross-examination is more common in the courtroom and is widely used to prove that the witness does not have all the facts pertaining to the case. The testimony that gave circumstantial evidence may have several holes in the statement that does not unequivocally prove the plaintiff’s guilt. The witness may have seen the plaintiff leave the store with a gun, but they could have run to call the cops and not noticed the real criminal leave the building. The purpose of this type of cross-examination is to make the witness testimony inadmissible.