Hi everyone! I only wished to make this post as a guide, a sort of warning while asking cross examination questions in court. More often than not, lawyers are always willing to pick out a lying witness. Afterall, it is part of the duty of counsel to discredit a witness, especially one that’s telling lies. In carrying out this duty however, the lawyer has to be smart and avoid getting in trouble.

Questions that tend to give credence to the case of the other party ought not be asked at all. It may sound a bit elementary, but I just came across one. I’ve been reviewing this judgment for a few hours now, trying to untie something in it. So I came across the question a defence lawyer asked an eyewitness to the crime as follows: “was the 3rd Defendant armed or not when he came looking for the deceased”? Now, the question the ‘smart’ lawyer asked may seem innocuous, but it ended up ruining the whole case built up by the defendant.

In that case, the Defendant had relied on the defence or alibi – he simply was not at the scene of the crime at all. However, in seeking to discredit the witness, the Defendant’s counsel ended up placing the defendant right in the scene of the crime! The answer to the question would have, at least to any audience, shown that the defendant was at the scene of the crime. It was just whether he was armed or not. At this point, it would also be wrong for counsel to decide to chose which part of the cross examination he wanted, and which part he does not. In the case of RIMDAN V. LAR, the Court held as follows

A counsel is not allowed to pick and choose from relevant answer to his questions in cross-examination. In the instant case, the counsel to the appellant asked one question too many and got answers he never bargained for which indeed knocked the bottom off his case. He would not be heard to say that the answers given by the DW7 to his questions under cross-examination were not pleaded and therefore inadmissible. There is no basis for remotely suggesting that DW7’s answers under cross-examination ought to have been pleaded before admitting them in evidence as they emanated from cross-examination unchallenged.

What do you think?

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