Cross-Examination Techniques – Part 3
Controlling Difficult Witnesses on Cross-Examination
FREE Cross-examination examples – Download our Cross-examination questions pdf
Cross-Examination Techniques Videos Cross Examination Sample Questions:
- Cross-Examination Techniques: Part 1
- Cross-Examination Techniques: Part 2
- Cross-Examination Techniques: Part 3
Michael Waddington is a criminal defense lawyer, Cross-examination expert, best-selling author on cross-examination techniques, and a trial consultant that defends cases worldwide. Mr. Waddington specializes in defending serious criminal cases including sex crimes, war crimes, military sex crimes, violent crimes, and white-collar crimes.
9 Techniques for Controlling Difficult Witnesses on Cross-Examination:
- Technique 1: Repeat the question.
- Technique 2: Repeat twice and then reverse.
- Technique 3: So, your answer to my question (insert question) is “Yes/No?”
- Technique 4: True or false.
- Technique 5: Perhaps I did not make myself clear.
- Technique 6: Did you hear the question I asked? What was it? What is your answer to that question?
- Technique 7: There are lots of things you want to tell the jury?
- Technique 8: Does something prevent you from answering yes or no?
- Technique 9: Are you finished yet?
To maintain witness control, you must ask good questions and follow these rules:
- Prepare and have your impeachment resources available (prior statements, learned treatises, journal articles, etc.);
- Remain calm and unemotional;
- Do not answer questions posed to you by the expert (they are the ones testifying, not you);
- Ask only leading questions;
- Insert only one new fact per question;
- Break cross-examinations into logical progressions towards specific goals;
- Gain and maintain witness control;
- LISTEN to their answer. If they dodge the question, DO NOT MOVE ON or REPHRASE!;
- Do not back down until the witness answers the question you asked; and
- Potty train the witness.
Cross-Examination Expert: Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, The Trial Lawyers Notebook, for Cross-Examination Samples
He also teaches lawyers across the USA how to effectively cross-examine hostile witnesses and win trials. He has taught thousands of lawyers how to deliver closing arguments, powerful opening statements, and
Trial Strategy and Cross-examination Expert:
Michael Waddington has been reported on and quoted by hundreds of major media sources worldwide and has provided consultation services to CNN Investigative Reports, 60 Minutes, Katie Couric, ABC’s “Nightline,” the BBC, German Public Television, CNN, CBS, the 2010-2012 Golden Globe-winning TV series “The Good Wife,” and various other international media outlets.
We wrote several textbooks with cross-examination techniques and cross-examination question examples for a variety of fact patterns.
Best-Selling Author on Cross-Examination techniques, Closing Arguments, & Sexual Assault Defense
Michael & his law partner, Alexandra, wrote some of the best-selling books on cross-examination techniques, sexual assault defense, trial strategy, and closing arguments. All of our books contain closing argument samples and cross-examination questions examples.
- Pattern Cross-Examination for Sexual Assault Cases: A Trial Strategy & Resource Guide
- Pattern Cross-Examination Examples for DNA and Biological Evidence
- Pattern Cross-Examination Questions of Expert Witnesses.
All of these books are used by criminal defense lawyers across the United States. All feature cross-examination techniques, cross-examination questions, and cross-examination examples for criminal and civil lawyers.
Expert on Closing Arguments: Subscribe for Closing Argument Samples
Mr. Waddington’s book, Kick-Ass Closings: A Guide to Giving the Best Closing of Your Life, is the #1 rated book on closing arguments. It has been an Amazon bestseller since it was published in 2018.
We fight false military sexual assault claims worldwide.
We defend military sex crimes and military sexual assault cases worldwide and state criminal cases in Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and South Carolina. We also handle federal criminal cases across the country.
Below is a transcript from the YouTube video Cross-Examination Techniques – Part 3: Controlling Difficult Witnesses on Cross-Examination
Welcome to nine cross-examination techniques for controlling difficult witnesses. This lecture on cross-examination techniques is part three of a three-part series on cross-examination. My name is Mike Waddington, and in this class, I want to talk about how to control hostile witnesses or difficult witnesses on cross-examination.
Here’s the list of the nine cross-examination techniques for controlling hostile or difficult witnesses. I also included them below in the description, so you can cut and paste them out of there, and I will show the cross-examination techniques at the end of the video.
Cross-examination technique number four, true or false questions.
This is another fun one. I do use this all the time. You need to master techniques one through three. First, you ask a witness a question. They don’t answer your question. They’re playing games. Just make it true or false.
Sometimes you’ll get an objection. There’s nothing objectionable about this. It’s even it’s a simple question. True or false? Your name is john. If they want to answer that their name is john, say your name is john. True or false? I like this technique.
Because the jury is like Yeah, I got true false is that’s like how we were trained in school. True or false? If it’s a fact, that should be true or false. And if you’re quibbling over the fact that you look like you’re playing games, you’re evasive. So, for example, in this case, after Johnny raped and tried to kill you, you return to his house.
What was I supposed to do? He had a. He had my phone, you say to the witness, true or false? After he tried to kill you, you returned to his house. Then you often get that’s true or false. And if they keep quibbling with you, then they just look stupid.
This is where you shouldn’t get scared about what if they don’t say true or false? What if they don’t say true or false? Again, stick to the nine techniques, and you’ll be good to go. And if they’re gonna give you opportunities to riff off of that, true or false, after he tried to kill you, return to his house?
They say, Well, I don’t know, they start giving some non-responsive answer. Just remember, this is a battle of credibility with the jury. You’re now giving them a true or false question. This is third-grade stuff. Did you return to the guy’s house or not? And that may be a way to das that at that point, and at that point, the jury is, again, going to be with you if you’re cool and calm and polite, and you’re just trying to get the truth.
Did you return to his house after the attack? Or didn’t, and then we escalated cross-examination technique number five. Perhaps I did not make myself clear technique number five. If you get a quibbling non-responsive answer, you can move on to technique number five.
That’s for when the witness is blabbing on and on. This cross-examination technique is for a hostile witness who will not respond to a straightforward question.
You say, after Johnny tried to kill you, you returned to his house? What was I supposed to do? I left my phone there. Perhaps I did not make myself clear—the question. I asked you after Johnny tried to kill you. You returned to his house? What is your answer to that question? And stop?
If they just ramble, ramble, ramble, and say, when did you understand what I’m saying, counsel? Who do you think you are? Cool, man, you’re winning, you’re winning the battle of credibility. That witness is self-impeaching. They’re impeaching themself. Okay. There’s a technique that I teach called.
Here’s a bonus cross-examination technique. And I call it impeachment by crappy personality. And that’s a technique that I use on a witness who may be telling the truth may not be their personality is so bad, and there’s so little with the way they present themselves and the way they speak and the way they answer.
The jury hates them, and they don’t want to listen to them. If you are credible, you can do that with many witnesses that are just bad witnesses because they’re generally not good quality people. They’re just negative bad people. So the same thing goes with the doctor’s question. You found Mercury in the water, blah, blah, blah,
Doctor, perhaps I did not make myself clear. My question to you was, you found Mercury in the water? What is your answer to that question? Stop, put the ball in their court. cross-examination technique number six. Did you hear the question I asked?
What was it? What was your answer to that question? Move on. And number six. Did you hear the question I asked? What was it? What was your answer to that question? Now, again, you got to make sure the jury is with you. Here’s it. Here’s how you do it. You ask the question, one new fact per question.
After Johnny tried to kill you, you return to his house, blah blah blah, non-responsive. Then you say to the witness, Mr. Jackson, one question that I just asked you. Wait till they respond. Sometimes they say, I don’t know. Sometimes you could say. Or you could say Did you hear the question that I asked you? They’ll say yes, usually. Okay. Mr. Jackson, what was your answer to that question? Or you say, Mr. Jackson, what did I ask you?
What was the question I just asked you? If they know the question, then have them repeat it, then say, what is your answer to that question? If you say, did you hear the question that I asked you? Yes. What did I ask you? What was my question? And they say, I don’t know. Or they give some answer. You say, No, my question is x.
What is your answer to that question? And it kind of puts him in check. Again, cross-examination technique. Number seven, there are lots of things you want to tell the jury. Number seven, this is mainly with experts and just people that can’t shut their mouth.
By the time you get to number seven, the jury should hate you, this witness, and not be listening to them. And maybe for comedic value. They’re listening to the witness, but they’re just like this person’s a bomb, they’re not answering the questions, or they’re hiding something, you say, there are a lot of things that you want to tell the jury. So you ask the question of the doctor. And I do this to the experts. Sometimes. For example, you found Mercury in the water,
A: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Q: You found Mercury in the water.
and they just go on and on and on. not answering the question. I mean, whether they found Mercury in the water should be pretty straightforward. Assuming that that fits your pack pattern. Then you say, doctor, I understand there are many things you want to tell the jury. But my question was, you found Mercury in the water? What is your answer, Dr., to that question? And if you get blah, blah, blah, then you can use other techniques. But the point is, you’re impeaching them because they won’t answer the question. They’re losing credibility. cross-examination technique number eight, does something prevent you from answering yes or no? technique? Number eight, when you’re asking a question, they won’t give a yes or no answer. This cross-examination technique could be this is a higher escalation. This something prevents you from answering yes or no to my question. And now I know the rules. They say, don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to. And you might get a crazy answer here. But you don’t care. You’re you ask the question. Is this something that prevents you from answering my question after they just can’t give a straight answer? If you use one new fact per question, and they are facts, cross-examination technique number nine. Are you finished yet?
Technique number 9: Are you finished yet?
This is the ultimate escalation. And I’ve done this when I ask a witness a question. And they’re not hurting me. There’s blabbing on and on and on and on. And you ask the question, and they don’t answer the question. For example, this is from a case I did.
This guy met a woman at a bar, they hung out all night, they had a couple of drinks, they left the bar together, holding hands hooked up, they dated for a little bit. And a little while later, a month or two later. She accused him of salting her, and the bartender remembered them because they were all over each other at the bar, and he saw them leave the bar holding hands.
So our point was, he wasn’t a stranger that followed her home like she was claiming. They met at the bar, and they left, and it seemed consensual, at least from what the bartender could see. But the bartender was very he didn’t want to be there. And he’s been very hostile. So he said when they so I asked them when they left the bar, they were holding hands. And a lot of people coming and going out of the bar that night. I mean, it was a Friday night. We were so busy.
We’re just trying to keep our heads above water, blah, blah, blah. And this witness, by the way, already testified to the police way back that he saw them holding hands he had told us in a pre-trial interview, he saw them holding hands for some reason he was fighting us, and we said we asked them when they left the bar. They were holding hands. That was a long time ago. There was a late-night. The bar was packed. It was cold. My manager asked me to help. All this is non-responsive to the question.
When they left the bar, they were holding hands?
And at this point, I said, let him blab on about how tough his life was, how many jobs he’s had since, and whatever he was blabbing about. And I said anything else you’d like to add? Oh, then he blabbed on a little more. Are you finished? I asked him. Now that’s being sort of snarky, but at this point, the jury was fed up with this person. And so they were with me on this, Are you finished? No, blah, blah, blah. And then I repeated, when they left the bar, they were holding hands.
Now, the witness had said everything they were going to say. They blabbed on at this point we said, When questioned by the police a month after the incident, you told the police that when they left the bar, they were holding hands, and then we moved into a different type of impeachment. So that’s the ninth technique. All of these need to be practiced, okay? You need to practice these with your family members.
Practice with your friends. Practice on your kids. Practice with your colleagues. Practice them. Memorize them. Practice them in depositions. Practice them in court. Practice them in hearings. Practice in front of the judge. Practice in front of the jury. Remember, maintain your credibility, and most importantly, have fun. Going to trial should not be the biggest stress in your life. If it is, you’re in the wrong line of work, and you need to loosen up. You should be having fun.
Cross-examining is a job I have a ton of fun of in my case. They’re very stressful, and they’re high stakes. But there, but I have fun doing it. There’s nowhere else I would rather be professional than cross-examining witnesses and giving closing arguments, and trying my case. So have fun at it. Once you master the rules, your anxiety will go way down. And also prepare, prepare, prepare. We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence then is not an act but a habit—practice, practice, train, train. If you’re a lawyer, you’re a trial lawyer telling it to people or trial lawyers. Whether it’s your first case or last case, you need to be prepared. You have a duty to be prepared for your clients. It makes you feel better, makes you perform better, makes our system work better, and makes it a lot of fun.
Once again, here are the nine cross-examination techniques for controlling hostile or difficult witnesses. If you write me a quick email, just let me know you watched the video. I’ll send you a free copy of The Art of Trial Warfare. If you have any questions or want to check out any of our other courses, please subscribe below.
We’re going to be putting out content, both long CLE lectures and snippets of the lectures for all different levels of trial practice, from people in high school doing mock trials up to season’s practice, seasoned practitioners. I thank you for being with me in watching this video and sticking with us. And if you have any questions or anything, put them in the comments below. Do you have any topics you want me to cover in future videos? Also, put that in the comments below or shoot me an email at this address.