Pauses

 Posted By: je froilan m. clerigo
10-Jan-2008

Another effective way to affect a witness on cross-examination is to pause, to just momentarily stop asking questions and just look the witness in the eye.

Here's my experience:

When a witness lies or exaggerates on the stand, it usually shows in his demeanour. These telltale signs are mostly subtle and sometimes even imperceptible: shifting in the seat, avoiding your eyes, lowering of the voice, swallowing before answering, and generally showing signs of discomfiture and lack of confidence in his answer. In my experience, the most common is an answer that hedges, and when you press further, the witness answers in a long narrative but unresponsive way, usually preceded by "it's like this (then proceeds to answer lengthily)," or "to tell you the truth, what happened was … " or "what I meant was ..." These essentially demonstrate that the witness is no longer sure of his answer, or at the very least, is not confident of it.

Let him talk and don't interrupt - listen to the answers and look for the inconsistencies. In most cases, the witness will just bury himself with these narrative answers. As he finishes, just look him in the eye but be silent, as if you are asking questions silently. In my experience, he will continue talking, further burying himself. Then rephrase or paraphrase his answers and ask the witness to confirm them.

If you have the means, then demonstrate his mistake, lie, inaccuracy, or exaggeration by asking short questions that pick on the inconsistencies. He may continue answering in long, narrative, non-answers. Don't look to the judge for help; just repeat the questions that were not answered. Eventually, the judge himself will step in to admonish the witness to just answer your questions.