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Family and Criminal Law Blog

Monday, December 21, 2020

What to Expect During Cross-Examination

Have you been called as a witness in a criminal trial? This can be a nerve wracking experience, even if you are not necessarily the one standing trial. A witness is called by either the prosecution or the defense. The attorney who calls the witness will have the first opportunity to question them on what is referred to as “direct examination” or “direct.” The attorney for the other side is then given an opportunity to question the witness on what is referred to as “cross-examination” or “cross.” On cross examination, the attorney for the other side will likely try to undermine the credibility of the witness and, at the same time, try to undermine the strength of the other side’s case as well as strengthening their own case. Knowing as much as possible about what to expect s can help ease some of the tension and relax the nerves.

What to Expect During Cross-Examination

The specifics as to what will happen and what will be asked during cross-examination will widely vary depending upon the attorney’s purpose. It will also vary depending on what was discussed during the direct examination as matters addressed during cross-examination are generally limited to that which was raised during direct examination.

An attorney can have one or several things he or she hopes to accomplish on cross-examination. The attorney may seek to focus on attacking the credibility of the witness. In the alternative, the primary purpose for cross may be to get the witness to concede key facts that could not be obtained from other witnesses. An attorney may also want the witness to confirm important elements of his or her own case. The general goals of cross-examination usually involve eliciting important testimony as well as hurting the credibility of a witness.

Witnesses may be relieved to hear that cross-examination can be much briefer than direct. While direct more involves narratives and detailed accounts of facts relevant to the case, cross is more pinpointed to confirm key details of that story. Those attorneys skilled in the art of cross-examination know that, especially after a lengthy direct, a concise cross-examination can be extremely effective, much more so than a lengthy, drawn out cross. In fact, a general rule of thumb is that a witness should be able to be effectively examined in cross for just 30 minutes or less. This can hold true even in the most complex of cases.

Jurors will get easily bored and impatient with a drawn-out cross-examination. That being said, as a witness, do not let yourself feel rushed during cross. Take your time to thoughtfully answer questions and listen to the questions in full before you start your answer.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

The dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Navarrete & Schwartz are committed to the zealous representation of our clients facing criminal charges. We are proud to serve the residents of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.


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