Checklist of Traps for Cross-Examination
Don’t ruin your cross-examination by stumbling into these traps. Avoid:
Cross-examination when appropriate.
Lack of thorough preparation.
Showing that you are wounded by an answer.
Not actively listening to the answer.
Failing to maintain composure.
Having the jury perceive you as discourteous or as someone who is not a seeker of truth.
Failing to adjust behavior to the witness and situation.
Not using the cross to tell your story of the case.
Spending time on minutiae.
Asking a question to which you don’t know the answer unless it is an exceptional situation (see Cross-Examination Handbook, pages 59-60).
Asking interrogatory (“why”-type) questions except under exceptional circumstances (see Cross-Examination Handbook, page 99).
Examining without notes (see the cross-notes format recommended in Cross-Examination Handbook, page 65).
Taking too many notes during cross.
Losing eye-contact with the witness by being locked into notes.
Failing to know and follow evidentiary law of cross.
Not using the nine impeachment areas including reliability, report and reporter (see Cross-Examination Handbook, pages 123).
Not using the seven essential impeachment techniques (see Cross-Examination Handbook, page 123).
Losing control of the witness. Have a repertoire of control techniques (see Cross-Examination Handbook, page 237).
Not knowing the ethical and legal boundaries of cross-examination and staying within them (see Cross-Examination Handbook, pages 355-356).
Not knowing when to stop.