Preparing for Cross-Examination


If you will be called as a witness at a criminal trial, whether you are the defendant or not, you may be intimidated and overwhelmed at the prospect of taking the stand. Preparation is key to helping stay calm and collected when you are being questioned by the attorney on direct or being questioned by opposing counsel during cross-examination. Here are some tips on how to prepare for cross-examination.

Preparing for Cross-Examination

As a witness, you will be asked to tell your story, in one way or another. Telling a story seems simple enough until you consider that you will be under the scrutinizing eyes of lawyers, a judge, and a jury. This is why preparation for cross-examination can and should involve going over the basics, the highlight real, of why you will be on the stand and what you will be on the stand to talk about. The shorter the narrative, the better. Not only will it keep you from rambling if you stick to the major themes, but it will keep the important message of your testimony at the forefront

This should go without saying, but always be truthful. Be prepared to always be truthful. This can be uncomfortable, especially when you are being cross-examined. During cross-examination, opposing counsel is looking to undermine your credibility and you may very well feel personally attacked. Stick to the truth. The jury can forgive people for being honest about mistakes. Dishonesty, however, can cause irreparable damage. Uncomfortable, but honest, answers can also be smoothed out on redirect

When on the stand for cross-examination, listen to the attorney’s question in its entirety. Do not jump in partway through and risk volunteering information that is not being asked for. You may be energized and anxious to provide helpful information when being questioned, but remember to wait until the whole question has been asked so you know what information to provide. Answer only the question that has been asked

Not only should you prepare to wait until the entire question has been asked, but you should also take a moment before answering a question. This is not a game show and you do not score extra points for how fast you answer a question. Take a pause to reflect on the question. This is often read by jurors as a person being conscientious as well as taking care to tell the truth.

You should also avoid guessing at the answer to a question. You may feel pressure to provide an answer to a question posed by the attorney. Do not give in and provide an answer you are unsure about. If you do not know the answer, say you do not know. If you do not remember the answer, say you do not remember. If you are unclear about what question is actually being asked, ask for clarification. You can still be cooperative and answer in these ways.

Criminal Defense Attorney

When preparing for cross-examination, remember that preparation is key to helping you remain calm and confident on the witness stand. At Dickman Law, we take great care in preparing all of our witnesses before taking the stand. In criminal trials, these are the details that can make or break a case and we are committed to doing anything we can to rigorously defend our clients. Contact us today.

Posted in: Criminal Defense