To be an effective cross-examiner, an attorney must (1) be
properly prepared—that is, know everything this witness has said
regarding the incident about which they will testify; (2) have a specific
objective to achieve with the cross-examination of the witness; and
(3) have a strategy as to how they will deal with the particular witness.
Having a strategy is critical, for being an effective cross-examiner is
not always achieved by taking a witness head on or just labeling them
an absolute liar.
Some witnesses are more sympathetic then others, and if you
attack a sympathetic witness, the jury may turn against you, viewing
you as the “meanie” defense lawyer. Indeed, the cross-examination of
the sympathetic victim witness, the alleged rape victim, the poor old
lady who was mugged, or the investor who was defrauded of his life
savings and children’s college education money, is always a crossexamination
analogous to farming a minefield. One wrong maneuver
and the game is over.
However, while it is incumbent on the cross-examiner to fashion a
strategy for cross-examining a witness who has the “advantage” of
being a victim, all is certainly not lost, and a proper crossexamination
of the sympathetic victim can prove the decisive
ingredient in your recipe for acquittal.