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Tag: Trial Skills

What Stephen Colbert Can Teach Lawyers About Cross Examination

Cross examination is one of the more powerful tools at a lawyers disposal.  It allows a lawyer to use leading questions to suggest the answer to the opposing witness.   Knowing what admissions will help or hurt the case, a lawyer can tailor a series of leading questions designed to advance their clients interests.  So what can Stephen Colbert teach a lawyer about cross-examination?  The answer is a lot.
Many lawyers fail to use leading questions when cross examining.  In failing to use this advantage lawyers let witnesses control the flow of information and potentially allow for more damaging answers to come out.  Controlling a witness with leading questions can minimize this risk.
Few people use leading questions better than Stephen Colbert.  When interviewing his guests he often gets them to admit to ridiculous facts.  These ‘admissions’ are obtained through leading questions.  The guests often agree even when the substance of the admission is outrageous and not accurate.  You can click here to access Stephen’s Interviews and see how leading questions can lead to helpful (or in Stephen’s case, amusing) answers.

One of the Best Lawyers of All Time Demonstrating the Art of Cross Examination

Cross examination is one of most important skills of a trial lawyer.  While there have been many useful texts written on the subject there is no better way to learn than seeing an effective cross-examination in action.
Gerry Spence is considered by many to be one of the best lawyers of all time.  Here is a great video of Mr. Spence demonstrating a cross-examination before a class in Ann-Arbor, Michigan some 25 years ago.
In this exercise the Defence witness had provided evidence supporting the Defendant’s case that they were not negligent.  Mr. Spence only makes one point in this clip; that this witness used the services of a ‘witness-consultant‘ before testifying.   Watch how much damage is done to this witness’ credibility with this one simple point brought out over the course of several very effective minutes.