Defense Attorney Tactics in the Courtroom

Essential to every witness’s preparation for cross examination is the awareness of the tactics being used by the opposition.  As a law enforcement officer, you can be effective, methodological, perceptive and effective if you know the game of cross examination.

The style and delivery of attorneys varies across the board, but there is agreement that the cross must be conducted with a specific objective in mind. A defense attorney may have several strategies on her mind as she steps up to cross examine a witness.  Here are some of the more popular ones:

  1. Testing a witness’s ability to hear, see, remember, and accurately communicate what he testified to on direct examination;
  2. Exploring and establishing favorable facts that have been left unsaid on direct examination;
  3. Introducing any favorable parts of a conversation or document if the witness has testified to only a part;
  4. Discrediting the witness by establishing that he was lying on direct examination;
  5. Establishing that the witness could not have seen or heard what he claimed (if those facts were not favorable to the defense);
  6. Establishing the witness’s bias or prejudice;
  7. Uncovering any interest, pecuniary or otherwise, the witness may have in the outcome of the trial;
  8. Challenging the credibility of the witness, for example by inducing him to admit that he made statements on a prior occasion contrary to his testimony on direct examination.

There are various methods in cross examination that I have seen and practiced during my time as a defense attorney.  This first is a “scorched – earth” approach wherein the objective is to take out everything and everyone in your way to proving that your interpretation of the facts is the truth. This methods more often  Another method is a surgical method whereby the attorney takes just facts that are helpful to his case.  In this latter method, the witness is left relatively intact and unfazed.

I hope this helps you in the battlefield of the courtroom!


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