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What Are Leading Questions?

In the course of a court trial, during an examination or cross-examination, an attorney for the defense or prosecution may ask questions of a witness that will provide a specific response the legal counsel was hoping to obtain. Questions that lead to this eventuality are referred to as leading questions. It is called as such because these questions aim to elicit a certain response from the witness at hand.

Lawyers and journalists who wish to elicit a type of reaction that may support his or her claim often use leading questions to do so. These individuals cleverly manipulate the kind of words they use in an effort to obtain a specific response from the individual they are questioning. Many of the leading questions used are framed in a manner that elicits only a yes or no response. For example, instead of asking where the person was, the examiner may specifically point to a location and ask if the individual being questioned was at that location at a specific time. Thus, leading questions are more close-ended and leave no room for explanations.

The use of leading questions in an examination or cross-examination of a witness is considered unethical since it may provide evidence or testimony contrary to the actual truth. This is because leading questions involve a certain sense of implication when answered. There is a sense that the examiner has coerced the individual subjected to questioning into saying exactly what the examiner wants to hear, which may or may not be the truth.

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