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).
 Disorganization.
 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).
 Being boring.
 Not knowing when to stop.