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Leading Questions In The Defense Of Criminal Cases In Los Angeles

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Sep 26, 2018

A leading question as it relates to testimony being brought in during a criminal case is when the person who is asking the questions of a witness, basically suggest the answer. For example, someone could say, that car was blue, wasn't it? That's a leading question. Now, you can ask leading questions on cross-examination, but you can't ask leading questions on direct testimony where you call the witness, unless you can show the judge that that witness is hostile and is not being cooperative regarding your asking of questions. So, sometimes the prosecution for an example in a domestic violence case, if the wife is now trying to help the husband in the case and make different statements than what she originally made, the prosecutor can ask the judge to treat her as a hostile witness and then can start to ask leading questions and say, wait a minute, you told the police back when you got the black eye that your husband is the one that hit you. Now you're trying to change your story and say something different. So, leading questions are an effective way to get your point across.

I use leading questions all the time on cross-examination when witnesses are trying to go against my client and when witnesses are attempting to bring in evidence that is against my client, I will then ask them leading questions in order to get the testimony out that I want. In other words, I can say, wait a minute sir, you're now saying that you saw the car hit the person, but back when you were originally questioned by the police you said you didn't see the car hit the person. This is a leading question and now the witness is going to be forced to answer to say, well now my memory is better, and so now I'm saying I did see your client hit the person. You can say, wait a minute sir, so over time your memory has gotten better? Don't you think your memory would have been best right at the time of the incident? Then you can hit him with more leaving questions. For example, the reason now that you're saying you saw my client hit the person is because you're friends with the person and you realize my client has a lot of money.

So, leading questions are very effective, but what you have to watch out for as a criminal defense attorney is when the prosecutor starts to ask leading questions or their own witnesses. Then they're just trying to feed the witnesses their version of events – their story – which is inappropriate. So, you need to object to leading questions and make him ask more general questions so we can really see what the witness has to offer.

So, a leading question can be both effective for a party and it can also be a situation where the defense has to be ready to object and stop the prosecution from leading witnesses. I've had prosecutors lead witnesses and they're doing it on purpose, so a witness can hear the way that they want them to testify and then I have to go to the judge and say, Your Honor, they're doing that intentionally. They're asking questions they know are leading so they can tell the witness what they want them to testify and then when you sustain my objection, then they say a question that's not leading, but the witness is not stupid. They heard the leading question and all they do is parrot back what the leading question was. So, that's another thing you have to look out for as a criminal defense attorney.

I've been doing this twenty-five years. I've done many, many jury trials, many motions where I've cross-examined witnesses, preliminary hearings. I know a leading question. I know how to effectively use leading questions and your attorney has got to have that ability in a criminal case in LA, or not only are they not going to get your evidence out, they're going to not be able to stop the prosecutors from inappropriately bringing in evidence they shouldn't be able to and they're not going to have an effective cross-examination and you're going to be put at a disadvantage when it comes to litigating your criminal case at a trial or a preliminary hearing. So, make sure you chose your attorney wisely – someone who knows how to cross-examine witnesses, who knows how to lead questions the right way and who knows how to block the prosecutors in LA from inappropriately bringing in leading questions.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.