Cross-examination is asking questions, on behalf of the accused, to the prosecution witness (PW). Cross questioning is done during a trial to dispute the evidence of the PW and bring something favourable for the accused.
The noun “cross-examination” was first recorded in a case in 1729, although the technique itself is much older, appearing in one case involving a will in Norwich in about 1200.
Thousands of books are written on the fine art of cross-examination every year. Very few lawyers master it and those who do, become the ultimate trial lawyers in any country.
There are many rules that sum up this art. The most popular are: the best cross-examination is not to cross-examine. And ask only those questions to the PW whose answers you (counsel for accused) already know. I firstly follow the second rule and secondly follow the first rule.
I recently cross-examined a 68-year-old man appearing as a PW in a murder case. The man claimed in his testimony that he had seen my clients (two ladies) sitting on a motorcycle which was driven by another co-accused (a male). He also claimed to have seen a motorcycle rickshaw laden with a large trunk tailing the motorbike. The witness also claimed to have seen the registration numbers of the bike and the rickshaw when he crossed them at midnight on a deserted road.
I questioned the witness in the following sequence. I wanted to dispute his ability to see the faces of my clients and the registration number of the two vehicles.
Me: Do you use night vision glasses at night?
Me: Do you have the ability to see in darkness?
Me: Do you drive the motorcycle at night with high-beam light or low-beam light.
Witness: I use low beam on GT Road and high beam on village roads.
Me: What light you were using on the day?
Witness: High beam.
At this point, I asked the witness that passengers on two motorcycles crossing each other with high beam light can’t recognize the faces of the people coming from the opposite side let alone read the registration plates.
Now I had to dispute the PW’s statement wherein he not only claimed to have seen the registration plates but also remembered them for 34 days.
Me: Have you worked as the manager of the bus stop?
Me: Have you been president of the rickshaw association?
Me: Have you ever worked in any intelligence agency?
I suggested to the PW that he is lying about remembering the registration plates of the two vehicles as he didn’t have the skill.
I had obtained whatever would favour my clients from the PW.