The long-taught trial technique for asking questions on cross-examination has been singular and to the point: lead, lead, lead. The attorney’s ability to effectively ask leading questions serves to both control the witness and to develop fodder for argument during summation. In addition to being able to effectively cross-examine a witness, it is equally important for the attorney to know why she is cross-examining the witness and where she is going with the cross. In other words, the attorney must answer a fundamental question before beginning any cross: What do I need to prove? The attorney who has a clear goal for the cross-examination and knows how to get there is well on her way to scoring points that will form a winning summation.
All crosses must start at the end. To prepare a cross-examination the attorney must know what she intends to argue in summation. That question is invariably answered by consulting the Pattern Jury Instructions and knowing the charge the judge will give to the jury. Once the attorney is familiar with the charge and the proof needed to support that charge, the attorney will have a roadmap to guide her through cross-examination.
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