50 S. C. L. Rev. 753 (1998-1999)
I Can't Believe I Asked That Question: A Look at Cross-Examination Techniques

handle is hein.journals/sclr50 and id is 763 raw text is: I CAN'T BELIEVE I ASKED THAT QUESTION:
A LOOK AT CROSS-EXAMINATION TECHNIQUES
JACK B. SWERLING*
I. INTRODUCTION
Cross-examination is the heart and soul of a criminal trial. It has been
described as the true vehicle in the search for truth in the courtroom.'
Observing a great cross-examination is spellbinding. Performing an effective
cross-examination is exhilarating. Making unnecessary and careless mistakes
on cross-examination can be a disaster.
How does one become an effective cross-examiner? The core element to
an effective cross-examination is preparation, coupled with as much practical
experience as possible. Experience can be gained only by trying cases which
will give the lawyer an opportunity to develop an effective style through trial
and error.
Some people are born with natural gifts, such as a great voice or presence,
that aide them in being effective cross-examiners. However, for the most part,
lawyers find that cross-examination is a learned process; what works for one
lawyer is what that lawyer finds comfortable.
Cross-examination is the lawyer's surgical tool that will assist him in
weakening an adversary's position or advancing his own cause. Cross-
examination ensures that it is not sufficient for a witness simply to accuse,
deny, draw a conclusion, or describe an event. The witness is subjected to
cross-examination to test his credibility, perception, recollection, and the
consistency of his assertions. Only after being subjected to the test of cross-
examination will a jury possess enough information to believe in whole or in
part, or reject in whole or in part, the witness's testimony.
This Article is written with the hope that it will be useful to both
prosecutors and defense lawyers as the fundamentals of cross-examination are
equally applicable to any advocate. Because I have always been on the defense
side of the courtroom, I draw examples from my own experience.
* Jack B. Swerling is a 1973 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of
Law. He has written several books and articles on criminal trial and appellate practice. He is
a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Academy of Appellate
Lawyers, and the American Board of Criminal Trial Lawyers.
Portions of this Article appeared as a chapter by Jack Swerling on Cross-Examination in
the South Carolina Bar's 1998 South Carolina Criminal Trial Techniques Handbook. The South
Carolina Bar has granted permission to have those portions republished here.
1. See FRANcIs L. WELLMAN, THE ART OF CROSS-ExAMINATION 7 (4th ed. 1948).

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