Litigation

Cal. Litig. 2016, VOLUME 29, NUMBER 3

Direct and Cross-Examination

By e. robert (bob) wallach and Brian J. McCormack

DIRECT EXAMINATION

Cross-examination gets all the glory. Watching Perry Mason and L.A. Law, viewers see the hero annihilate a witness on cross. And lawyers love to share war stories about how they destroyed a witness on cross. But cases are usually won by presenting the evidence in your case in chief, i.e., cases are won as a result of direct examination. It’s on direct examination that you present the substance of your case: your client’s version of disputed facts and your key evidence (your documents, writings, and demonstrative exhibits).

But there is an important corollary: Jurors evaluate a witness’s credibility on direct exam based on their composite view of the witness’s performance under cross-examination. Judgment is suspended until the witness goes through the crucible. Jurors expect a witness to do well on direct. Direct examination is pivotal to credibility. The likelihood of being believed on cross-examination begins with the belief in the witness on direct exam. The circle is closed when the jurors — now satisfied that the witness has withstood the rigors of cross-examination — conclude the witness is credible, with the groundwork having been laid on direct exam. The witness favored is the witness the jurors want to succeed.

Join CLA to access this page

Join

Log in

Forgot Password

Enter the email associated with you account. You will then receive a link in your inbox to reset your password.

Personal Information

Select Section(s)

CLA Membership is $95 and includes one section. Additional sections are $95 each.

Payment