What Kind of Questions Do You Ask a Witness?

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According to Erin Fuchs of Business Insider, lawyers who are questioning witnesses on the stand during cross-examination should ask pointed yes or no questions that do not allow the witnesses to explain themselves. Lawyers should also refrain from asking witnesses why they provide certain answers. The goal of a lawyer should be to ask enough questions to catch witnesses in a contradiction so as to discredit the testimony.

Erin Fuchs explains that during jury trials, lawyers must be careful not to attack or overwhelm witnesses, because it could work against the lawyers' favor and cause juries to side with the witnesses out of pity. The best tactic is to allow jurors to decipher for themselves that a witness's testimony is unreliable from the lawyer's line of questioning.

During direct examination, Sara E. Kropf for the American Bar Association advises lawyers to question their witnesses in a manner that helps juries to focus solely on the witness's testimony and not on the lawyer's presence. A good tip for achieving this is for lawyers to stand at the end of the jury box so that the jurors are looking only at the witness stand and not at the lawyer. This also helps witnesses to turn toward the jury, allowing jurors to make a more personal connection with witnesses as they are being questioned. Kropf also recommends that lawyers ask organized but open-ended questions of their witnesses so that the witnesses are able to perform the majority of the talking and tell their version of events.