Among Irving Younger’s commandments were the well-known dictates of “be brief” and “save the ultimate point of your cross for summation.” The latter was the model for an eyewitness cross-examination at a recent training on litigating mistaken identification cases, but when we polled the mock jury one of its members – discussing the cross –
“By seeking and blundering we learn” – Goethe “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison. “A spelling mistake in the DNA of a gene within the brain seems to impair the ability of a person to improve their performance based on knowledge of earlier errors.” – News
Sadly, it can be the rare witness who does not come with some baggage – a criminal conviction, a potential bias, an inconsistent statement, or some other challenge to her/his credibility. So, the proponent of that witness has to make a choice – bring it out first, or simply wait for the sting of cross-examination.
Prosecutors cross-examine much less frequently than do defense counsel, for good reason. Often defendants do not testify (with some data sets putting the number below the 50% threshold for felony cases that go to trial), whether because they have little too say, there is ample impeachment evidence the jury will not hear if they remain
For forty-plus years, learning the art of trial advocacy has included the obligatory viewing of a tape of Irving Younger’s “10 Commandments of Cross-Examination” lecture. And every lawyer who has ventured into the courtroom has seen – if not personally experienced – the dire consequences when a commandment is violated, in particular when the cross-examiner