I’m still in Scottsdale undergoing therapy following a failed knee revision surgery so I’ve not kept this current as I usually do. However, here are some thoughts about deposition and cross examination for you to consider
T. Evan Schaeffer has written a very good outline of deposition practice tips for taking a deposition. “Forgetful witnesses, spotting liars, difficult opposing counsel and more” Written for the less experienced lawyer, it is nevertheless worth reading. See: http://www.jamespublishing.com/articles_forms/civillitigation/deposition_practice_tips.htm
I think lawyers have problems with cross examination because they don’t approach it with the right mental attitude. Too often they assume it is a conversation where you can expect a good faith effort to communicate. Instead, the witness, especially the expert witness, sees it as a contest. There are many good rules that apply to good cross examination, but one of the most fundamental deals with the length of the question. By limiting the question to one subject at a time one can march a witness through a story. Witness attempts to evade become obvious.
Lets take the nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill” Here is the story and let’s suppose it is the story we want to tell on cross examination:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.
Up Jack got, and home did trot,
As fast as he could caper,
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob
With vinegar and brown paper.
So, how do you tell this story on cross? It’s so simple the temptation is to put it in a couple of questions. But you run the risk of the witness not cooperating. More important the impact of the story is greater when told in short points.
Q. Jack and Jill did go up a hill, didn’t they?
Q. They went there to get a pail of water true?
Q. Jack fell down didn’t he?
Q. He broke his crown, isn’t that so?
Q. Jill came tumbling after Jack didn’t she?
Q. Jack then got up didn’t he?
Q. Jack trotted home true?
Q. Jack trotted as fast as he could didn’t he?
Q. It’s true that old Dame Dog patched his nob isn’t it?
Q. she used vinegar and brown paper didn’t she?
If you divide your cross examination into subjects or specific point you want to make you are able to organize these in order of importance. Then, taking each chapter of your cross examination break the sub points into short simple leading questions. If you combine more then one subject you offer the witness a chance to argue or evade. Arranging your sub points as a story then puts you in control as the story teller.
Be sure you have at your finger tips any documentation to use to impeach the witness. Even where the witness denies the question if you move forward with your short questions you are telling your story.