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The questioning of a witness or party during a trial, hearing, or deposition by the party opposing the one who asked the person to testify in order to evaluate the truth of that person's testimony, to develop the testimony further, or to accomplish any other objective. The interrogation of a witness or party by the party opposed to the one who called the witness or party, upon a subject raised during direct examination—the initial questioning of a witness or party—on the merits of that testimony.
The scope of cross-examination is generally restricted to matters covered during direct examination.
n. the opportunity for the attorney (or an unrepresented party) to ask questions in court of a witness who has testified in a trial on behalf of the opposing party. The questions on cross-examination are limited to the subjects covered in the direct examination of the witness, but importantly, the attorney may ask leading questions, in which he/she is allowed to suggest answers or put words in the witness' mouth. (For example, "Isn't it true that you told Mrs. Jones she had done nothing wrong?" which is leading, as compared to "Did you say anything to Mrs. Jones?) A strong cross-examination (often called just "cross" by lawyers and judges) can force contradictions, expressions of doubts, or even complete obliteration of a witness' prior carefully-rehearsed testimony. On the other hand, repetition of a witness' story, vehemently defended, can strengthen his/her credibility. (See: testimony, trial, direct examination, witness, credibility)
cross-examinationin court practice, the part of a case, whether civil or criminal, where evidence is elicited from the other side's witness. Thus, the defence will cross-examine the investigating police officers after the prosecutor has conducted the examination in chief It serves two functions:
- (1) to test the veracity of the witness and the accuracy of the evidence;
- (2) to obtain evidence on points on which he has not been questioned in chief and which may support the cross-examiner's case. Failure to cross-examine on any matter generally implies acceptance of evidence on that point.
CROSS-EXAMINATION, practice. The examination of a witness, by the party who
did not call him, upon matters to which he has been examined in chief.
2. Every party has a right to cross-examine a witness produced by his antagonist, in order to test whether the witness has the knowledge of the things he testifies and if, upon examination, it is found that the witness had the means and ability to ascertain the facts about which he testifies, then his memory, his motives, everything may be scrutinized by the cross- examination.
3. In cross-examinations a great latitude is allowed in the mode of putting questions, and the counsel may put leading questions. (q.v.) Vide further on this subject, and for some rules which limit the abuse of this right, 1 Stark. Ev,. 96; 1 Phil. Ev. 210; 6 Watts & Serg. 75.
4. The object of a cross-examination is to sift the evidence, and try the credibility of a witness who has been called and given evidence in chief. It is one of the principal tests which the law has devised for the ascertainment of truth, and it is certainly one of the most efficacious. By this means the situation of the witness, with respect to the parties and the subject of litigation, his interest, his motives, his inclinations and his prejudices, his means of obtaining a correct and certain knowledge of the facts to which he testifies the manner in which he has used those means, his powers of discerning the facts in the first instance, and of his capacity in retaining and describing them, are fully investigated and ascertained. The witness, however artful he may be, will seldom be able to elude the keen perception of an intelligent court or jury, unless indeed his story be founded on truth. When false, he will be liable to detection at every step. 1 Stark. Ev. 96; 1 Phil. Ev. 227; Fortese. Rep. Pref. 2 to 4; Vaugh. R. 143.
5. In order to entitle a party to a cross-examination, the witness must have been sworn and examined; for, even if the witness be asked a question in chief, yet if he make no answer, the opponent has no right to cross- examine. 1 Cr. M. & Ros. 95; 1 16 S. & R. 77; Rosc. Cr. Ev. 128; 3 Car. & P. 16; S. C. 14 E. C. L. Rep. 189; 3 Bouv. Inst. n. 3217. Formerly, however, the rule seems to have been different. 1 Phil. Ev. 211.
6. A cross-examination of a witness is not always necessary or advisable. A witness tells the truth wholly or partially, or he tells a falsehood. If he tells the whole truth, a cross-examination may have the effect of rendering his testimony more circumstantial, and impressing the jury with a stronger opinion of its truth. If he tells only a part of the truth, and the part omitted is favorable to the client of the counsel cross- examining, he should direct the attention of the witness to the matters omitted. If the testimony of the witness be false, the whole force of the cross-examination should be directed to his credibility. This is done by questioning him as to his means of knowledge, his disinterestedness, and other matters calculated to show a want of integrity or veracity, if there is reason to believe the witness prejudiced, partial, or willfully dishonest. Arch. Crim. Pl. 111. See Credible Witness.