Preparing for and Surviving Cross-Examination as a Witness

Preparing for and Surviving Cross-Examination as a Witness
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Resources
Recorded on: 2019-06-13
Unit 1Slide Deck: Preparing for and Surviving Cross-Examination as a Witness
Unit 2Workbook: Preparing for and Surviving Cross-Examination as a Witness
Unit 3Recording: Preparing for and Surviving Cross-Examination as a Witness

The responsibility of law enforcement does not end with going to the scene of the crime or catching the bad guys. It also includes coming to court and testifying as a witness to help serve justice on cases one has worked on. Cross-examinations’ seemingly inherent nature is to cause stress on whoever gets called to the stand – be it a civilian who got entangled in a case for the first time or a sworn officer who’s worked and testified on plenty of these.

This session’s instructor is Jessica Rock. One of Justice Clearinghouse’s regular resource speakers, she is a Homicide/Special Victims/Animal Cruelty prosecutor from Georgia. In her role, she shares her expertise by conducting training and support to law enforcement, animal control officers, prosecutors, judges and veterinarians on the end-to-end process involved in case investigations and trial.

On this course, Jessica will unpack in great detail guidelines and pointers in what she calls the road map to surviving cross-examination. She discussed:

  • What cross-examination is, its goal, and what happens in it.
  • The importance of case preparation which really starts as soon as a call is made and response is deployed.
    • Beginning with the end in mind by treating each call as if it is a case that will go to trial.
    • The standards of proof and applicable laws to familiarize with to build a strong case.
    • Preparing the witness to the possibility of testifying and helping them to get over common fears.
  • The tedious but critical task of report writing.
    • How a well-written report can save time when preparing for and dealing with cross-examination.
    • The qualities of a good report that must be factual, detailed, accurate, chronological and organized.
    • Using the first person point of view and active voice when writing and the importance of correct spelling and proper grammar in reports.
    • The often negative implications that come with incomplete or missing information.
    • Detailing which things and procedures were done and not done.
  • The pressure-filled courtroom presentation.
    • Preparing for a courtroom presentation from receiving the subpoena to the day of the court appearance.
    • An overview of what to expect with direct examination and cross-examination.
    • Going on a pre-trial conference with the prosecutor to discuss points of the case – including weak ones that are likely to be dissected by the defense attorney.
    • The importance of updating one’s resume/CV and maintaining a list of certifications and other credentials that build up credibility.
    • Demeanor and appearance expected in court – from arriving, hallway conversations, entering the courtroom, taking the oath, to interacting with the judge, jury and defense attorney.
    • How the jury perceives and interprets a person’s character based on language, appearance, and non-verbal cues.
    • Qualities that make a witness credible and what causes witness failure.
    • The specific instructions the judge gives to the jury when deciding and deliberating on the witnesses’ credibility.
  • Understanding the role of the defense attorney in the courtroom.
  • The critical cross-examination component in court trials.
    • The scope of cross-examinations and the defense’s goal.
    • Common defense attorney’s tactics during cross-examinations, how to navigate around these, and other tips.
    • Key to effective responses in cross-examinations.
  • Jessica provided clarifications for the webinar attendees’ questions on:
    • Dealing with a defense attorney who wants to talk with a witness prior to a trial.
    • The acceptability of looking into your notes to reference numbers and other complicated interpretations and results.
    • How spelling and grammar on written reports can impact how others perceive one’s thoroughness and credibility.
    • Including legal conclusions in the report.
    • Fostering open communications and working relationships between law enforcement and prosecutors.
    • Going through the questions that will be asked in the direct examinations.


Audience Comments

  • “All the slides were outstanding and I really do appreciate all the great information in this webinar!!” — Ronald
  • “Detail on how an LEO should be in court and how to present his/her information. I appreciate knowing how we might be tripped-up.” –Charles
  • “Everything was useful but I found the Jury details particularly useful. Something I wasn’t aware of or haven’t heard in other trainings.” –Keri
  • “I have never testified before but in my new role as a child abuse pediatrician I expect to be called to testify. the information was helpful as regards the general approach taken by the defense and how to handle those sort of situations.” –Shawn
  • “Reinforcing important details while testifying, such as avoiding becoming hostile or taking things personally. The course content was pertinent and much appreciated.” –Aaron


Additional Resources
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