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What Is a Direct Examination?

A direct examination is a legal term which refers to a situation where an individual is summoned to court to give testimony, and is directly questioned by the party that summoned them to the trial, as a means of obtaining evidence or other important information related to the case being upheld. A direct examination has various rules attached to it to prevent malicious exploitation by both attorneys and their clients, and it has a notorious history of being used in inappropriate ways by some unscrupulous attorneys.

One of the most commonly upheld rules related to a direct examination is that the questions asked by the attorney must be stated out clearly and without any obvious leads attached to them - that is, the attorney must not attempt to provide any important information to the witness being examined through the question. When a piece of information is unknown to the witness and it can affect their response to a question, the attorney is obliged to not disclose that information to the witness until the question has been answered.

However, in cases where it can be proven that the witness is actually a hostile witness, the attorney may be allowed to use leading questions, when this benefits the outcome of the case without adding extra ambiguity to it. In these cases, different types of examination can also be used, such as cross-examination, in order to provide a clear picture of the witness's testimony. Using leading questions is only allowed when the judge confirms the witness as hostile.

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