New York, April 30, 2016. Renee Hill represents one of nine current or former Rikers Island prison guards charged with viciously beating an inmate. Jahmal Lightfoot, the former inmate, is the star witness against the guards. Lightfoot testified that these guards mercilessly punched, kicked and stomped on him with boots that felt “like a brick.”
Once in rare while we come across a piece of advocacy which seems almost perfect. This is hard to accomplish in cross examination because your “partner” is hostile and seeks to thwart you at every turn. This is especially true in a sex crimes case because they are so freighted with emotion. The accuser can be highly agitated and the cross-examininer can easily lose control. It rarely goes as scripted.
After the DeCoutre Disaster the Crown called to the witness box a woman publicly identified only as complaint #3. If the Crown thought she would bring their case back from the dead, they were sorely mistaken.
I enjoy following trials and dissecting cross-examinations. An outstanding example of confrontation is currently proceeding in Canada. Jian Ghomeshi is the celebrity defendant in the Canadian “Trial of the Century.” He is being defended by Marie Henein, a protege of the late Eddie Greenspan, who was Canada’s best known criminal lawyer.
I hate redirect. Any form of rebuttal can be deadly but redirect under the federal rules is pure torture. A brilliant cross-examination can be entirely unwound with an effective redirect, especially when denied the chance to respond.
“Cross-examination is the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth. You can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it. A lawyer can do anything with cross-examination if he is skillful enough not the impale his own cause upon it.” – JOHN HENRY WIGMORE It is hard to explain the principles […]
No matter the system of justice, an advocate is only as good as his preparation — especially when it comes to cross-examination. I follow a good cross-examination no matter where it occurs. I enjoyed dissecting the over-the-top Gerry Nel cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius in his notorious South African murder trial. Now comes another international trial, […]
Some days cross-examination doesn’t work. No matter how well planned, no matter how well the strategy executed, nor how tight the questions, the witness beats us. One particularly insidious type is the witness with an agenda. They won’t follow the rules and simply answer the question. They volunteer their personal agenda whenever possible. It is […]
On Friday, December 12, 2014, I will be teaching a seminar on cross-examination at the FIU Law School. The seminar has been organized by H.T. Smith and Scott Fingerhut. I have attached the materials I drafted for the seminar.
Roy Black will be giving a presentation on Cross Examination on Friday, December 12, 2014, in conjunction with Florida International University College of Law’s 2-day Trial Advocacy Performance CLE Program.