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What Is a Cross-Examination?

In a court trial, a witness may be presented whose testimony is vital to the claims or arguments made by the legal counsel of the defendant or of the plaintiff. When the legal counsel who has solicited the testimony of an individual finishes questioning him or her on the witness stand during direct examination, the opposing counsel is given the opportunity to question the witness as well. The latter is referred to as cross-examination.

An attorney of the opposing counsel during cross-examination may only ask questions that pertain to the issues undertaken during direct examination. However, some jurisdictions allow cross-examination to include that were not addressed during direct examination but are relevant to the court trial. Questions during cross-examination are meant to undermine the claims made by the legal counsel that solicited the witness, to destroy the credibility of the witness rendering the testimony as useless, or to reveal facts that may support the claims made by the opposing counsel. It is also possible for the opposing counsel to make use of leading questions in an effort to achieve one of the goals aforementioned.

A cross-examination is thus similar to an interrogation. The opposing counsel treats the witness in a hostile manner in an attempt to elicit a testimony that is favorable towards the claims or arguments being made by the opposing counsel. After a cross-examination is conducted, it is possible for a redirect or re-examination to occur wherein the legal counsel that solicited the witness is given the opportunity to reduce the damage caused by the opposing counsel during cross-examination.

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