Leading questions erode credibility

 Posted By: je froilan m. clerigo


The objection "Leading question, You Honor" is perhaps the most frequent objection we either make or hear during trials, supposedly because of fear that the witness's "Yes" or "No" to this type of question will enter the record and thus hurt us.

But so what? Testimony may be on record, but this does not mean that the court will believe it. In fact, the question is, will the court believe a testimony that was mostly drawn out from the witness by leading questions?

Consider the purpose of the rule when it disallows leading questions. It is disallowed because of the danger that the testimony of the lawyer will be substituted with that of his witness; the witness's words are reduced to an echo, the witness mechanically saying what the examining lawyer is puttting into his mouth. We suggest that, analyzing this rule, it is actually an implicit directive to the court or fact-finder to disbelieve, or at the very least, to be wary of, the answer of the witness.

What happens if we do not object to a truly leading question? It gets into the record, yes, but will it be believed? That's another story. What happens if we object? The examining lawyer rephrases his question, the witness answers the non-leading question, and it becomes more credible, further burying us.

We suggest that perhaps the rule disallowing a leading question is more the lookout of the examining lawyer than of the opposing counsel. It is more aimed at the examining lawyer: ask leading questions at your peril; do not ask leading questions so that your direct examination is more credible.