Great Cross Examination-Charles Laughton

The next three posts explore cross examination by studying great cross examinations. Cross examination is often the most challenging part of the trial.  Cross examination presents the opportunity to either turn an adverse witness into our witness or destroy the adverse witness. Either way our case benefits form successful cross examination.

My preference is to turn the witness into my witness. On destroying the adverse witness I prefer to do this in a way the jury will accept. Since we never know for sure if the jury likes a witness, and people usually want to like a person rather then dislike, it is the wiser course not to embarass, badger, or abuse a witness.

In our first example of “Famous Cross Examination” we see the great actor Charles Laughton in Witness for the Prosecution.  As we see from viewing this short but sweet cross, Laughton is able to destroy a fact witness in a way that is acceptable to the jury. He uses the classic inability to perceive the facts to accomplish the destruction of the witness.

As we see in the clip Laughton begins by setting the foundation for inability to hear (and hearing a conversation is the basis for the adverse testimony). In setting the foundation Laughton begins by asking the witness in a booming voice if she recently applied for a hearing aid. In doing this Laughton  uses change of voice (going into a less audible voice) to dramatically illustrate the witness’s hearing problem. When the prosecutor objects Laughton unfazed agrees to repeat the question.

This time continuing in a booming voice Laughton restates his question with the witness admitting she has yet to receive her hearing aide. Continuing in his booming voice Laughton verbally summarizes the witness’s testimony. In doing this he paints the scene within which the witness is supposed to have heard in a way that is obvious the conversation could not be heard by a person with poor hearing. Then by again lowering his voice Laughton demonstrates the witness’s inability to hear as she again cannot hear Laughton’s lowered voice. Now the damage is done. The witness is destroyed without being embarrassed, badgered or abused.

    6 Responses to “Great Cross Examination-Charles Laughton”

    1. […] Famous Cross Examination-Charles Laughton | Zen Lawyer Seattle […]

    2. Jeff Goggans says:

      I didn’t quite get the point this to begin with. But when I checked it out a third time, it all started to make sense. Thanks for the idea. Certainly something to spend some time on.

    3. Josiah Waldall says:

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    5. Clair Cornely says:

      Hello Great Job. You make great points. I am going to do some topic related follow up research and learn more.

    6. couldnt have said it better myself

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