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CROSS-EXAMINATION TO PRIOR PROBABILITIES

Prior Probability is a term associated with a complex mathematical formula devised by the eighteenth century mathematician Thomas Bayes. You most likely will have to look long and hard to find a simple, everyday-English definition of the term.  I did a quick search of all the usual suspects on the internet (Wikipedia, etc.), and the [...]

LINCOLN USED CONCESSION-SEEKING CROSS-EXAMINATION

The Crafton Murder Trial Cross-ExaminationAbraham Lincoln’s fame as a cross-examiner rests in large part on his decisive use of an almanac to discredit a witness in what history remembers as the Almanac Trial. If we dig into the history books, we can find much better support for the proposition that he was an excellent cross-examiner. [...]

LINCOLN THE CROSS-EXAMINER

The centerpiece of the legend of the Almanac Trial is Lincoln’s cross-examination of the eyewitness to the killing. Was he really a good cross-examiner? Frederick Trevor Hill, who wrote the first book about Lincoln’s law practice seems to have thought so. Hill said:  Cross-examination makes greater demands upon a lawyer than any other phase of trial [...]

LINCOLN’S “MISSOURI METHOD” CROSS-EXAMNATION

Lincoln’s Almanac TrialAlmost every practicing trial lawyer in America has heard the story of how Abraham Lincoln broke down a witness’s testimony by use of an almanac. The witness Charles Allen testified he saw Duff Armstrong murder Preston Metzker by the light of a moon high overhead. Lincoln firmly committed him to this statement by [...]

LINCOLN AND ASSISTED SUICIDE

Cross of the Exaggerating Witness There’s an old saying that cross-examination is more often suicidal than homicidal. It is meant as a caution to lawyers to be sure that they don’t impale themselves on their own sword, but it applies equally to a witness. When a witness overstates, embellishes, or otherwise plays fast and loose [...]

THE CROSS-EXAMINATION THAT CHANGED HISTORY

Modern presidential debates are really quite laughable affairs when compared to the prototypical series of campaign debates. The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 were actual debates and not carefully stage-managed opportunities to disgorge prefabricated talking points. The two men made arguments to their audiences in courtroom fashion with one party getting to open and close the [...]

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AS A CROSS-EXAMINER

Frederick Trevor Hill was one of the first Lincoln biographers to write a book exclusively about Lincoln’s legal career. His work, Lincoln the Lawyer, which was published in 1912, contains a chapter entitled “The Cross-Examiner,” in which Hill assesses Lincoln’s abilities. Hill had this to say:Cross-examination makes greater demands upon a lawyer than any other [...]

BEST CROSS-EXAMINATION QUESTION

Sometimes the best question is the one you don’t askAbraham Lincoln’s cross examination of Charles Allen in the Almanac Trial is perhaps one of the most famous cross examinations in American legal history. In our Cross Examination Handbook, we reproduce a transcript of that cross as reported by Francis Wellman in his seminal work, The [...]