Going around objections

 Posted By: je froilan m. clerigo
14-Dec-2007

 

 

 

 

A question on cross examination that may appear objectionable for being irrelevant may still be allowed if you know how to argue based on a different ground. In other words, choose your battles; don't get trapped in your opponent's objection and, by reflex, confront it head-on. You will oftentimes win an objection battle by sidestepping the ground for the objection and raising an entirely different ground for the question to be allowed.

For instance, a witness testifies on direct examination that he was able to listen in to a conversation between 2 people who are 5 meters away from him. Next question: where was he while the conversation was going on? Answer: he was at his desk in the office, working.

On cross, if you ask him what kind of documents he was working on at the time, it may be objected to as irrelevant, that is, whatever the contents of the documents may not be relevant to the issues of the case. The objection may also be that it is improper cross because the contents of the documents the witness was working on was a subject not covered by the earlier direct exam.

But, if you respond that the question is intended to test the credibility of the witness, to test his capacity to observe what he said he observed at the time, the court will usually direct the witness to answer. If you fight the objection with an argument on the relevance of the documents to the fact in issue (whether or not the conversation took place and what it was), or that your question covers a subject mentioned in the direct examination when the witness said he was working at his desk, the chances of getting the question in may be a lot slimmer. But, as it is, a witness' credibility is always in issue, so that questions testing it generally cannot be ruled as irrelevant.