Persuasion at Trial: Cross-Examination

A witness for the opposing party has testified, possibly producing a shift in the jury's view of the case.  This shift needs to be attenuated or reversed.  Thus, the major purpose of cross-examination is to discredit the witness through attacks on the ability of the witness to (a) know the true state of affairs (knowledge/expertise) and/or (b) accurately relate this information to the jury (trustworthiness)—the two components of credibility.  Additional purposes of cross-examination include the use of the testimony of the witness to discredit others of the opponent's witnesses and to uncover any favorable evidence for one's case.

Several considerations should be kept in mind concerning cross-examination.  First, cross-examination rarely discredits totally the witness's testimony.  Research indicates that, in all but the most extreme cases, discrediting a witness on cross-examination fails to eliminate totally the persuasive impact of the witness.  As discussed in a previous issue on opening statements...

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