leading question

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Leading Question

A query that suggests to the witness how it is to be answered or puts words into the mouth of the witness to be merely repeated in his or her response.

Leading questions should not be used on the direct examination of a witness unless necessary to develop the person's testimony. They are permissible, however, on cross-examination. When a party calls a hostile witness—the adverse party or a witness identified with the opposing party—leading questions can be employed during the direct examination of such a witness.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

leading question

n. a question asked of a witness by an attorney during a trial or a deposition (questioning under oath outside of court), suggesting an answer or putting words in the mouth of the witness. Thus, the attorney may help his own witness to tell a pre-planned story. Such a question is often objected to, usually with the simple objection: "leading." A leading question is allowable only when directed to the opposing party to the lawsuit or to an "adverse witness" during cross-examination (the chance to question after direct testimony) on the basis that such a witness can readily deny the proposed wording. Typical improper leading question: "Didn't the defendant appear to you to be going too fast in the limited visibility?" The proper question would be: "How fast do you estimate the defendant was going?" followed by "What was the visibility?" and "How far could you see?" (See: cross-examination)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

leading question

a question that either suggests the answer expected or that assumes the existence of disputed facts to which the witness is to testify. Leading questions are not allowed except as to formal matters that are not disputed (e.g. witness's name, address, etc) and in cross-examination. Even where allowed there is always the danger that the answer, thus obtained, is given less weight by the judge.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

LEADING QUESTION, evidence, Practice. A question which puts into the witness' mouth the words to be echoed back, or plainly suggests the answer which the party wishes to get from him. 7 Serg. & Rawle, 171; 4 Wend. Rep. 247. In that case the examiner is said to lead him to the answer. It is not always easy to determine what is or is not a leading question.
     2. These questions cannot, in general, be put to a witness in his examination in chief. 6 Binn. R. 483, 3 Binn. R. 130; 1 Phill. Ev. 221; 1 Stark. Ev. 123. But in an examination in chief, questions may be put to lead the mind of the witness to the subject of inquiry; and they are allowed when it appears the witness wishes to conceal the truth, or to favor the opposite party, or where, from the nature of the case, the mind of the witness cannot be directed to the subject of inquiry, without a particular specification of such subject. 1 Camp. R. 43; 1 Stark. C. 100.
     3. In cross-examinations, the examiner has generally the right to put leading questions. 1 Stark. Ev. 132; 3 Chit. Pr. 892; Rosc. Civ. Ev. 94; 3 Bouv. Inst. n. 3203-4.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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It is curious that some attorneys will conduct cross-examination without using leading questions. Leading questions provide a powerful advantage over nonleading questions.
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