Examination of the witness techniques:  how to Ask questions like a lawyer

The examination of the witness is a foundation of building or destroying your case. 

It has to be done with great care and technique. 

If you’re finding a good technique to examine any witness in a civil or criminal case you have arrived at the right place.

Here I will share with you essential techniques that you can employ to achieve an excellent examination of the witness.


    Examination of witness meaning

    The examination of the witness is the process of obtaining evidence from the witness. 

    This process involving asking questions and leading the witness to adduce articles or documents as evidence before the court. 

    The techniques in the examination of witness hinge itself on how to frame/phrase your questions and how to lead the witness to properly adduce his evidence.



    Examination of witness occurred during the hearing of the case.

    Before examination of any witness
    • Make sure you understand the facts of the case.
    • Talk to your witness before session
    • Tell what you expect from him, remind him of important issues of the case, and make him feel comfortable; make sure he understands the material facts of the case.
    • Arrange your witness according to their importance.
    • Start with the key witness. For Example, in the criminal case, the key witness is a victim while in a civil case the key witness is you. Remember the quantity of the witness does not matter but quality.
    • Each witness must prove or corroborate something
    • Make sure all the witness which give evidence they are useful in terms of proving or disapprove existence of certain facts in your case.

    In choosing witnesses you have to put into consideration the following attribute of a good witness;
    1)      A smart witness
    2)       Independent
    3)      A direct witness (a witness who was present at the scene)
    4)      Not bias
    5)      Who know  the facts of the case
    6)      Honest and Trustworthy



    TECHNIQUES EMPLOYED IN EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES

    Examination of witnesses involve three stages, namely examination-in-chief, cross-examination and re-examination.


    TECHNIQUES EMPLOYED IN EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES


    Techniques involved in examination-in-chief

    Examination in chief refers to the examination of the witness by the person who called that witness. For example when you have been called by the republic to give evidence in any criminal case, the questions that you will be asked by the state attorney or public prosecutor is an examination in chief.

    The purpose of examination in chief is to enable the person calling the witness to extract from his witness, subject to rules of evidence and procedure everything that the witness knows about the case so as he can build his case.

    When conducting examination in chief observes the following techniques



    • Do not ask leading question
    Leading questions refer to the questions which suggest answers. Examples of leading questions are


    1. You were at home or at the scene of the crime on 1st July?
    2. Did you see the accused person stole the computer at the office?

    Leading questions are forbidden to assess the credibility of the witness.  You may ask leading questions in the introductory matter and undisputed facts. Otherwise Instead of leading questions you should ask questions like who, what, where, when, and how which allows the witness to tell the story naturally. Example


    1. Where were you on the 1st of July?
    2. What did you see at the office?


    • Ask simple questions
    Simple questions attract simple answers which avoid complications to the witness side. Most witness is afraid of court. Simple questions will make the witness comfortable and will let the witness remember the answers.


    • Avoid unnecessary interruption
    Let the witness tell what he knows without interruption. Give him/her enough time to think about answers and arrange his sentences.



    • Consider the chronological flow of the story
    Flow of the the story is essential when it’s come to evidence. Guide the witness to tell the story in the chronological flow of the events. When asking you questions observe the flow of events. Guide the witness to tell the material facts of the case logically.


    • Be friendly
    Let the witness be your friend. Ask questions in a friendly manner and when the witnesses ask you to repeat do so in a helpful way.


    • Ask a witness if he wishes to adduce any document or article in his possession as evidence.


    Cross-examination Techniques

    Cross examination Is an examination of a witness by the opposite party after examination in chief. For example when you have been called by the republic to give evidence in any criminal case, the questions that you will be asked by the a state attorney or public prosecutor is an examination in chief and the question that will be asked by the accused person is cross-examination.

    The purpose of cross-examination is to discredit the evidence adduced during examination in chief. To destroy your opponent case and build yours. To show that the witness is not reliable, he is a biased or outright liar.

    During cross-examination you should observe the following techniques



    • Ask leading questions
    Unlike in examination in chief where leading questions are forbidden, in cross-examination the leading question is allowed. Ask a leading question to test the truthfulness of the facts.


    • Ask a series of questions with a purpose
    Ask a small piece of a question with the major purpose. In cross-examination don’t ask a question that you don’t know its answer and don’t ask without purpose.


    • Maintain eyes contact with the witness
    Eye contact can make you detect if the witness is lying. Also, make sure you observe the body language of the witness.


    • Don’t be harsh but never treat a witness as a friend.
    • Make sure you attack on essential facts of the case include documents or any article adduced as evidence.
    • Focus on proving the witness wrong.

    Re-examination techniques



    Re-examination is the examination of the witness by the person who called that witness for the purpose of rebuilds what has been destroyed in cross-examination.

    Re-examination is not a must. You are advised to re-examine unless it is necessary. Only when cross-examination has destroyed your examination in chief.

    the object of re-examination is to allow reconciling the discrepancies if any, between the statement in examination in chief and cross-examination or to explain any statement inadvertently made in cross-examination or to remove any ambiguity in the deposition or suspicion cast on the evidence by cross-examination.



    In re-examination


    • Only ask questions which intend to rebuild your case
    • Avoid unnecessary repetition
    • Ask simple, clear and straight forward questions
    • Avoid confusing the witness.
    NB. During examination of the witness makes sure you record everything for ease of reference.

    CONCLUSION
    The rules and technicalities regarding the examination of witnesses are not provided by any statute. These are just rules of guidance based on experience, psychology, logic, and wisdom of advocates.  

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