Cross-Examination in a Hearing or Trial in California
Cross-examination and being able to do it skillfully is the best friend of a great criminal defense attorney because a lot of times when push comes to shove and you want to test the prosecutor’s case, your client is saying one thing, the prosecutor’s witnesses are saying another thing and you’re at an impasse. Sometimes you have to take the stick to the prosecutor’s case. Set the case for preliminary hearing. Set the case for trial. Set the case for a motion.
The only way that you’re going to effectively exploit the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case is by way an effective cross-examination of their best witnesses. In other words, the witnesses that make their case. And the way that you do the most effective cross-examination is first you do a thorough investigation and have some good information to be able to use against their best witnesses. That means talking to your client, talking to other witnesses, using experience, using the facts and circumstances that are in a case. The way that you really have the most effective damage to the prosecutor’s case is by way of a solid cross-examination.
Top Cross-Examination Tips
I wrote a DVD where it is a video talking about my ten top cross-examination tips. Some of the tips in that video talk about specifically how to effectively cross-examine a witness. When you get information about a witness and you want to confront them with it, you have to realize right from the beginning that witness is going to try to wiggle off the hook. In other words, that witness is going to attempt to get out of whatever piece of good cross-examination you have against them. So, if you know that in advance, and obviously your going to design your questions leading up to the impeachment that you’re going to cross-examine them about so that they can’t get out of it.
The only way I can really express this is by way of an example. If you’ve got a witness who, for example, has signed a contract with their agreeing with another party that they’re going to get 60% on a loan that they’re going to give them, which is basically loan-sharking rates for example, and you ask that witness whether or not they’re involved with a loan-sharking agreement, most of the time that witness is of course going to say no because that would be illegal and they would get in trouble. But, don’t forget. You’ve got the loan-sharking agreement with their signature on it. You’ve got a witness that can testify that they entered into that contract. You’ve got pretty good evidence that the person entered into a loan-sharking agreement.
So, when you confront them with some of your evidence and say, wait a minute, don’t you know Bill? Didn’t you sign an agreement with Bill? Show them the agreement with their signature on it. You have to realize in advance as an effective cross-examiner, they’re going to try to get out of that. They’re going to make up an excuse. They’re going to deny signing it. They’re going to deny the percentage, so you have to set them up through effective examination, so when they try to squirrel out of the good impeachment that you have, you’ve already effectively laid the foundation for them to not be able to get out with it and then you’ve got them. Now you can really make them look bad in front of a jury and in front of a judge and that really does some bad damage to the prosecutor’s case.
Myself and a colleague of mine were doing a preliminary hearing downtown Los Angeles and some manager of a bar had basically got in a fight with our clients. He started the fight. He attacked them and they beat the guy up and then he cries like a baby and says that they battered him and it was like a felony battery serious case. Well, we had a video of him weeks before doing the exact same thing to other people, but this time he bullied these people and had the bouncers there. The incident with our clients was like three in the morning and the bouncers already went home, so he was doing his regular bullying pattern but he didn’t have anybody there to back him up.
So, we asked him, don’t you do this all the time, where you’re causing trouble? No, I’ve never done this before. You’ll never have any proof that I’ve done this. Bam! We’ve got the video tape. Of course, we set him up and now we have the video tape impeaching him that he’s lying. Not only did it impeach him, show that he’s a liar and has no credibility, but it also showed what our clients were telling us which was, this guys is a bad guy. He caused trouble. He attacked them and all they did was defend themselves. This is what effective cross-examination is all about.
If you’ve got a case that you believe is a winner, that you think there’s some good evidence to support your version of events, come sit down with me, we’ll talk about it and see what we can do to get you out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible.
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