Great Cross Examination-Charles Laughton

 Cross examination is a challenging part of the trial.  It presents the opportunity to either turn an adverse witness into my witness or destroy the adverse witness. Either way my case benefits form successful cross examination.

My preference is to turn the witness into my witness. On destroying the adverse witness I do this in a way the jury will accept. I never embarrass, badger, or abuse a witness.

One of my favorite cross examination movie scenes is 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 acceptable to the jury. He uses the classic inability to perceive facts to destroy 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.

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 a conversation that 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. The damage is done. The witness is destroyed without being embarrassed, badgered or abused.

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