In the new book, Your Witness: Lessons on Cross-Examination, there is a chapter titled "Cross-Examining the Liar" by Chicago lawyer Dan Webb.
Webb, who has cross-examined scores of liars during his long career, begins the chapter by describing the two requirements that must be present before you even begin to think about trying to take on a liar at trial--
- First, you must be certain that you can establish that the witness has a "clear-cut motive to fabricate that the jury will understand";
- Second, you must be certain that you have at least one "clean substantive line of cross-examination" during which you can establish that the witness probably lied.
In one of Webb's examples, he tells of a medical expert who was clearly biased against his client, but whose testimony was so technically complicated that Webb wasn't sure he could make it clear to the jury that the expert was lying about the results of certain scientific studies. As a result, Webb chose not to confront the expert.
Webb also discusses the proper demeanor to use when cross-examining a liar at trial. You should be aggressive--"firm, confident, and assertive." Yet you should never raise your voice, at least not in an over-the-top way. "Anytime I hear a lawyer scream and yell in the courtroom," writes Webb, "then I know the lawyer is a failure."
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