U.S. Capitol Building

Bickering Over Basic Facts on Cross-Examination

Jamison KoehlerEvidence, Trial Advocacy

I like the government witnesses who fight with you on cross-examination, refusing to acknowledge even the most basic facts, like whether a particular street goes north-south or east-west.  It is as though any concession at all to the defense will lose the case for the government. Although I have never been a judge or sat on a jury, I would assume the fact-finder would find such testimony suspect; as in, where else is this witness being less than completely direct with us?

Q:  Now, officer, Ninth Street goes north-south?

A:  The numbered streets in D.C. generally go north-south.

Q:  Was that a yes?

A:  Yes.

Q:  You testified on direct that you were parked on Ninth Street in your cruiser.

A:  [no response]

Q:  Was that a yes?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Were you facing north or south?

A:  I guess that would be south.  But it is —

Q:  — You also testified that the two young men came down Ninth Street.

A:  I testified that they crossed Ninth Street.

Q:  When they crossed Ninth Street, were they heading east across Ninth Street or west across Ninth Street?

A:  I don’t know whether they were going east or west.

Q:  They were in front of you?

A:  No.  They were behind me.

Q:  Well, let me ask it this way.  When they were crossing Ninth Street while you were sitting in your cruiser facing south, did they go right or did they go left in relation to where you were sitting?

A:  They went left.

Q:  So they went east.

A:  I don’t know what direction that would be.