Tag Archive for: Oakland

I’m Not Going To Be Cross Examined By “That” Lawyer

So the worst kept secret in Michigan is out:  it is not fun to be cross examined by me.  Not fun at all.  I wouldn’t compare it to getting one’s teeth pulled.  However, I would compare it to trying to out punch your shadow.  Trying to fend me off is tiring and usually pointless.  It is a fight that can’t be won.  But, you don’t have to take my word for it … take the word of others that have watched it first hand or experience it.

One person watched the officer’s eyes as I walked into the courtroom, and he swore that they showed fear in their eyes.

There are other stories too:

The retired police officer that reminds me on social media what it was like to be cross examined by me.  Every time we post a transcript or a video, he comments and chuckles and reminds me of an encounter we had.  He dreaded the experience.

Or, there are the thousands of people that watched our YouTube.com videos of my cross examinations of a Michigan State Trooper in a circuit court trial.   Read the comments … you’ll see what they think.

But one stands out to me.  I cross examined several witnesses in a personal protection order hearing and some of the potential witnesses watched me do it. They were going to be witnesses for the opposing party.  One look and they changed their minds.  They said:

I’m not going to be cross examined by that guy.

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Pretty high praise for my style of cross examination.  Killer Cross Examination.

 

Neil Rockind

Fun Friday | Two Excerpts From A Masterpiece Cross Examination Of A Seasoned Cop

In a racketeering and criminal enterprise case involving four (4) top lawyers, it fell upon me to cross examine the cop that was the centerpiece of the state’s case.  I knew that was my purpose in being in the case and I made sure that I rose to the occasion.  The clients and lawyers were counting on me and I was going to deliver.  This is an Excerpt from the Cross of Gray, my cross examination that assisted in obtaining a dismissal in a high profile racketeering case.

In this segment of Killer Cross Examination, you should notice two (2) things:  my calling out the witness’ physical reaction to questioning and his ultimate reaction when he was cornered and realized that I had trapped him.  These are keys for developing a killer cross examination.

First, witnesses testify with more than just their words — they physically react.  Prosecutor’s call out when a witness uses his hands to show a distance or an angle but there is more to be put on the record than angles, etc.  One can do what I did and that is — call out the witness’ physical reaction to testifying.

In the Cross of Gray, the penetrating nature of the cross examination caused the witness to tremble.  We all saw it and I wanted the record to reflect it.  So … I made sure that it did:

Bill Gray Trembling

Notice how I literally called him on his physical reaction.  He was trembling from the pressure that the questions placed on him and I wanted the record to bear that out.  This is important and too many lawyers don’t do this.  Instead, they’d remember it but never record it.

Additionally, sometimes you trap a witness to such a degree that they utter something that leaves a lasting impression — an admission if you will that they’re done, cooked, etc.  When a seasoned cop utters the word “shit” at finding himself in a trap, you know that he’s cooked.   This happened in this excerpt of the Cross of Gray:

Bill Gray  - Oh Shit

The witness was cornered.  He had literally been trapped in a corner where I had pointed out that his conduct was “a wink” to our client to continue to operate his business and that, contrary to his testimony, he didn’t want to bust him.  When he realized he was cornered, he admitted it and then uttered the unthinkable

….. shit.

Killer cross examination is effective and fun (particularly when you make them tremble and swear on the witness stand.)

Enjoy the Dream Cruise.

Neil Rockind

Punch Them In The Face | Right Back At ‘Em Cross Examination Of An Expert

 

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He had just finished testifying for the prosecutor, offering an opinion that a certain amount of marijuana was being possessed for sale and delivery purposes rather than for personal consumption.  His reasoning was circular:

It was the quantity.  The amount.  Mostly the amount.  What about it? Well, the amount…

He continued to repeat that as though repeating it made more true.  When it was my turn to cross examine, I wanted to go right back at ’em with a “Punch Them In The Face” killer cross examination.  And that is just what I did …

Before he even settled in for my cross examination, I started in about “the magic number.”  He seemed startled and caught off guard

Good, I thought.  This isn’t going to be some namby-pamby cross examination.  This is a killer cross examination.

My questions about “magic number” were direct and a verbal

Punch in the face

Rockind - Magic Number Cross

Notice how I wasted little time in going after him and his incessant reliance on “quantity.”  A Killer Cross Examination can feel like death by a thousand cuts with a slow, methodical destruction and dismantling of the witness or it can be an immediate haymaker, i.e., a punch in the face.

 

A Look At Attorney James “Jim” Amberg’s Cross Examination Of An Informant

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There’s a popular saying about how there are different ways to do something.  For example,

there’s more than 1 way to skin a cat.

In essence this sayings means that there are different ways to express the same sentiment or thought:

different people have different ways to doing the same thing and both ways may be quite effective as well.

While I have developed a style of cross examination that I refer to as “Killer Cross Examination” that is based on my style, personality and approach, there are other extremely effective lawyers that cross examine a different way.  Some are extremely effective and have the results to prove it.   In other words, my approach is not the only way to “skin the proverbial cat.”   And like an artist who can appreciate the artistry of another painter’s work, I too can appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship in another lawyer’s cross examination style.   Today, we take a brief look at my friend, James “Jim” Amberg’s style of cross examination by examining his cross examination of an informant, Marcus Harvey, in a drug/RICO trial.

About Jim Amberg

A bit about our subject, Jim Amberg, before we examine his cross examination style for while the words appear on the page, they gain more impact if you can picture the actual live examination.  To do that, we have to describe Jim a bit.

First, Jim is nothing if not energetic, passionate and excited.  Literally.   Jim is a bright light — from the moment you meet him until he leaves, he is full of energy.  Not angry energy mind you … but energy that is infectious and captivating .   I wouldn’t want Jim’s voice and energy to be the first thing I see and hear in the morning upon waking after a long night of drinking with little sleep but it is just the sort of energy that I’d want in someone who was leading me into battle or leading me my team onto the football field.  Jim’s demeanor and energy can get you fired up.

Second, Jim is funny.  He makes no apologies for his sarcasm but when he is sarcastic, he is so with a smile on his face rather than a sneer.  He almost appears to be enjoying his own humor.

Last, Jim is fearless.  I’ve seen him in court and he relishes the fight.

The Case – The Informant-Witness

With that as the backdrop, Jim was defending a young man who was accused of participating in a local gang that wrecked havoc in Detroit, Michigan.  This gang regularly participated in drug deals, handgun acquisitions, robberies and murder.  Each of the young men involved were accused of killing people at various times of their young lives.  One young man in particular was arrested and accused of participating in the gang organization.   He faced a sentence that would have likely resulted in his incarceration for life.  However, the young man decided to cooperate with the federal authorities and talk on others.  Despite several meeting with agents, he never once mentioned Amberg’s client.  Looking for an even more favorable deal, the witness mentioned Amberg’s client in a late, late debriefing.  Amberg sought to exploit the following on cross examination:

  • The witness’ own culpability;
  • The witness’ plea and sentence deal that would spare him a life sentence;
  • The witness’ involvement relative Amberg’s clients, i.e., that the witness was more involved yet was cooperating with the government against his relatively uninvolved client;
  • The witness’ omissions in earlier interviews;
  • The witness’ failure to mention his client immediately;
  • Contradictions between the witness’ story and the DEA reports; and,
  • The overall character of the informant.

Amberg did an excellent job demonstrating how incredible the informant-cooperating witness was when he cross examined him recently.  Here are excerpts:

Challenging The Witness’s Claims – Tying Him To A Post

I like to call this practice tethering the witness to a statement or “tying him to a post.”  The lawyer is in possession of a statement that the witness made elsewhere and has the ability to prove that the witness made the statement.  The witness is effectively tethered to it, i.e., admit it or deny at your own peril and be cross examined about it.  You tie him to the post.

If the witness denies the statement, he is impeached with 1) the fact that he is refuting his own words and 2) ultimately by the testimony of the person that took or heard the statement.  Here is an example of Amberg did that here:

Amberg - Cross Sample Page 1

Notice how Amberg actually uses “memory” and “denials” to emphasize the witness’ denial about that statements, eg, you don’t remember saying or you didn’t say, etc.  He is reminding the jurors that the witness’ claim is not believable.

Something else he does is pit the witness against the government agents or police officers.  By asking the witness questions like, “So, if Agent [so and so] put that in his report, he must have been wrong?”, he is directly forcing the witness to choose between contradicting himself or contradicting the agent.  When the witness indicated that the agent must’ve been wrong, the witness lost much credibility.  This is well done.

Here, Amberg discusses omissions with the witness.  Pointing out what a witness said is important but so is pointing out what a witness omits.  Here, despite sitting down to discuss others involved in crime as a part of a cooperation agreement, the witness never mentions Amberg’s client.  Amberg points this out by discussing the absence.

Here is another example of tethering the witness to a statement.

Amberg - Cross Sample 3

Amberg tied the witness or tethered the witness to another post — this time a tape recorded interview between the witness and the police.   When the witness acknowledges the interview, Amberg moves in for the kill to point out what the witness did and did not talk about.   As you can see, this is not the first time the witness has ducked what he told agents in those interview sessions.  First, he denies making certain statements in an interview, then testifies that the agent must’ve been wrong and now the witness is disputing a tape recording.  With each answer, Amberg is stretching the witness past the point of believability.

Humor To Finish Him Off

I am a firm believer in using humor where one can to make a point.  A laughing jury is not a hanging jury, an old saying goes.  Amberg is from the same school.

The witness has testified that money given to him was not for marijuana or pot.  He has testified to picnics, parties and barbecues however.  Amberg combines the two and the use of the word “pot” to point out the absurdity in the witness’ testimony and to convey what he thinks of it:

Amberg - Sample Cross 9

Did you see it?

so it might not have been pot money, it might have been potluck money

Amberg is finishing him off with humor.  The refusal of the witness to concede that the collected money by a group dealing drugs was for drugs/pot is silly.  There was no reason for the witness to deny this claim other than his desire to avoid admitting to more crime or his feeling that Amberg had made him look and sound untruthful.  Rather than admit it, he chose to sound even more untruthful.

Amberg gave him just enough rope for the witness to figuratively hang himself.  This too was well done.

The lesson in Amberg’s cross examination is simple:  use your own personality to challenge and cross examine witnesses.  Amberg does this well.  He uses wit, humor and smarts to force the witness to be his own worst enemy.   Amberg literally gave this witness a chance to tell the truth, i.e., “I needed more people to throw under the bus and so I picked on your client” and when the witness didn’t admit that, Amberg forced him to admit everything but …

Neil Rockind, Rockind Law
Criminal Defense Lawyer

Criminal Defense Attorney Rockind’s Cross Examination “Shakes Up” A Cop

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Shaken Up.  A cop reported to the officer in charge of a case that my cross examination of him “shook him up.” His description sounded like he had been “hypnotized” in a way. I kid you not!

The cross examination really shook me up.

This is one of the greatest testaments to my style of cross examination and it all happened in open court.

What happened? Here is the story:

I mentioned an exchange between a detective and me on Friday during a hearing in court. The detective was caught violating a sequestration order and was under cross examination. The following exchange (being paraphrased here until we get the transcript) occurred:

Q: you spoke with officer [name withheld]?

A: about his testimony, yes. He felt he hadn’t testified well. He felt he was misrepresented.

Q: “misrepresented”?

A: yes

Q: so he was blaming me and the questions that I asked?

A: not at all. He was blaming himself. He felt like the questions made areas that were black and white grey.

Q: he testified falsely?

A: HE WAS SHAKEN. He said that that the cross animation SHOOK HIM UP.

Q: shaken?

A: yes. I could tell that he was shaken. He said that the cross examination really shook him up. I said, “you’re normally a very competent witness. What happened?” He said, “I don’t know…”

Q: I want to follow up on this? Like I hypnotized him?

A: Mr. Rockind, you’re a very good lawyer. Your cross examination is really good. If I could, I’d have you teach a class at the police department on cross examination.
While I won’t be teaching the academy or police departments hoe to handle my questioning, I have to admit that it felt good to hear that my years of practice and focus on cross examination paid off.

While some people can learn how to cross examination, there is an art to it as well. To learn more about our firm, Rockind Law, visit Rockind Law.

Neil Rockind

Patience, My Friend – How Being Patient, Actively Listening And Cornering A Witness Reveals A Lie

Be patient, son.

How many times have I heard that phrase in my life?  How many times have I said that to others?  Many.  Likely too many to recall and too many to count.  Yes, patience is a virtue but I’m not a patient person.  However, a killer cross examination requires patience and more — it requires active listening in real time and then doggedly pursuing every attempt a witness may take to evade the question.  Some key points of this discussion:

  • be patient;
  • keep moving forward toward your goal;
  • knock down down attempts to pass like a tennis player approaching the net;
  • be relentless; and,
  • eventually, you’ll cut off the witness, leaving him nowhere to go but to answer the question.

In a killer cross examination, if you follow the above rules, what happens during the cross examination is remarkable — while ultimately getting to the goal of the cross examination, the examiner will also expose the witness as an evasive and argumentative witness.  This is a killer cross examination.

Take a look at this recent cross examination in which I cross examined a detective that took interrogated our client and made some exaggerated claims to our client during the interrogation, claims that were designed to convince our client to confess.

First, the detective told our client during an interrogation that he had researched the topic of x-rays and the procedures involved.  This was a lie that I wanted to expose:

Sommers  Cross - Blog 1

The detective equivocated so I forged ahead, patient but relentless:

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Notice how he starts to backtrack and stammer.  His claim that he had researched x-ray procedures and talked to professionals quickly becomes something informal and imprecise.  Notice how the detective tries to answer the question about “naming” the professionals with something else, i.e., information about procedures and processes that he thinks will hurt my client.

I was patient.  I continued moving forward asking him about his official investigation.  He must’ve realized that he was in trouble and now he’s backtracking, flailing his arms and equivocating.  Notice how I don’t bite — “its either a part of your investigation or not?”:

Sommers Blog - Cross 3

Not only was I proving that he had lied to our client but do to his answers, he was proving himself to be untruthful.  Quite honestly, he’d have been better saying, “I lied to your client” rather than this smorgasbord of answers.  The killer cross examination exposes this evasiveness — focusing on each effort at being evasive as we march towards our original goal.

In the interrogation of our client, he claimed that he had talked to “x ray people” but a moment ago, he said it was only a “person” so I pursued that difference:

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Notice how unbelievable his answers are:  people vs person, lack of memory of the month, lack of memory of the day and nothing notated in his reports.  I intended to damage his credibility but this damage is self-inflicted.  Of course, when a witness is willing inflict more damage on himself, I’m going to let them.

I start to tie his non-answers and contradictions together to make the point:

sommers - Cross Blog 5

Notice how he continues to backtrack.  He tries to deny it was research but is trapped with his own words.  Caught, he dives into the answer head first — like a guy jumping on a grenade:  “I was satisfied with it.”  So I reminded him of the original topic, his lie about “research”:

Sommers - Cross Blog 6

I could’ve let it end there but his self-serving explanation that he’s trying to be forthright can’t stand.  Its obvious that he’s not but I wanted to underscore the point.  I keep turning up the heat, exposing the evasiveness and using his evasive answers against him:

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As you can see, my patient and persistence was paying off.  He has characterized his “research” as a nearly happenstance encounter with someone in the hallway.  I take his answers and tie them to what he did and did not tell our client.  Notice that where in the beginning, I had a point to make about “research” he has now given us more than just a lie about “research” but a series of contradictory, nonsensical, evasive answers.

In the end, notice how on one topic, whether he actually lied to our client about doing “research” in to x-ray positions, he refused to concede that he in fact lied or overstated that fact.  It would have been a bit painful for him but the cross would’ve exposed that one point and only that one point but he would’ve gotten credit or scored some points for being “honest” and admitting his shortcoming.  Rather than doing that, he tried to evade and argue — kind of like someone trying to thrust and parry while falling down in a losing match.

As you can see, I was determined, persistent and patient in getting to my objective on cross examination.  Along the way, I capitalized on his evasiveness and combativeness.  By following these techniques and samples, you too can conduct a killer cross examination of a critical witness — just be patient.

Dynamic Cross Examination Of A “Victim”

During direct examination, he cried, stuttered and had difficulty getting his words out.  He appeared truly traumatized.   Undeniably, the young man on the stand had been injured and injured badly.  He was making a compelling case while testifying and he was sympathetic as well.  What kind of cross examination would be effective?  A dynamic cross examination in which I was actually and truly in the moment and by “in the moment”,  I mean the actual moment listening to what the witness said and reacting in real time.  “Dynamic” means characterized by constant change, activity, or progress.  A cross examination of the victim in this case needed to be dynamic, i.e., live, organic, changing and reacting.   Ask those that witnessed my approach to him and they’ll agree that it was just that — dynamic.

Tell The Jury What You Want

Every lawyer has encountered the witness that adds on to his answers to his questions.  The add-on’s are potentially devastating and unexpected — usually declarations that only serve to assist the state or government.  Some lawyers will try to “control” the witness or shut the witness down.  That is one approach.  That was not my approach — I chose to handle things dynamically.  Here is an example:

Q: rules are in place for your safety and the safety of others, right?
A: yes. Like don’t cross 5 lanes of traffic without looking because you couldn’t wait 30 seconds nearly ending my life … (long emotional outpouring monologue)
Q: is there something that you want to tell the jury because that wasn’t an answer to my question? Go ahead tell them whatever you want…
A (diatribe about life, death, our client, etc)…
Q: anything else?
A: (more diatribe)…
Q:  is anything else that you want to say?
A:  no. I think I’m done.
Q: you’d agree that I’ve given you a chance to say whatever you want, right?
A: yes.
Q: and you’ve don’t that?
A: yes.
Q: now that I’ve don’t that, I want to return to my questions, do you understand?
A: yes.
Q: as I was saying, rules are in place to protect you and others?
A: yes.

Most lawyers would be sweating and panicking at the ad-libbing and would have wanted to shut it down.  I did the opposite.  In the moment, evaluating the situation, I accepted the victim’s energy and absorbed it.  I invited him to say what he wanted, unafraid of what he said it would say.  He was hurt, upset, offended, mad and wounded and he wanted to speak.  I believed that the jury would not appreciate me cutting him off.  I was always wary of wounded animals and treated him similarly:  I wanted him to expend his energy now.  And so he did.  No trial skills group or book would recommend this approach.  To the contrary, most would want me to take control.  I did the opposite.

The Setup: Rules

Some new lawyer groups and skills training groups claim that they have a new approach to trials: focus on the rules and how the opponent violated them.  This is not a new tact.  In fact, David Ball, a jury and trial consultant and author has advocated this for years: the rules.  Focus on the rules and how the other side broke them.  This was the setup for my cross examination and one of the reasons why I allowed him to vent early on–I knew what was coming.

I questioned him about the rules, eg, rules are in place for you safety, the safety of others, it is important to follow those rules and you follow the rules. He readily agreed.

The Post: The Medical Records

He was claiming that he wasn’t speeding and I wanted to undermine that testimony.   After he denied speeding, I planned on proving that his claim that he wasn’t speeding and that he follows the rules was untrue.  Everyone who follows me knows that I advocate “a post” on cross examination.  Find something fixed in the case and then tie the witness to it. The victim’s medical records was that post.

The records revealed that the victim broke hospital rules repeatedly, rules to protect him and others. He changed his own treatment, rejected treatments, disrespected the staff, smoked in the hospital, had sex in the hospital room and was partying in the room. I knew that he’d have to deny or agree with those notes.  Either way, I was good.

I began with a challenge: your testimony that you follow the rules was untrue, wasn’t it? He denied it.  He then, when confronted with the records, denied the truth of the records. He blamed the staff, accused them of lying and of fraud in record keeping.

In the moment, every time he added new allegations to his denials, I reminded him that I was going to test him on each.  Calmly, never raising my voice and slowly, I pulled every strand of his lies apart.  I reminded him that he was accusing staff of fraud and misconduct.  He was merciless in his allegations against them.  He was not believable.

One last thing that I did was, after I realized that he was fighting with me and being assertive and firm, I reminded him that he was responding differently to me than to the state: “you recognize that your demeanor is different with than it was with the state?” He was stuck: like a deer in the headlights.

These approaches and bits on cross examination were part of a dynamic cross examination.  Cross examining is challenging because you need to be in the moment, dynamic and quick.  You need to be able to think on your feet, use the resources available to you and quickly process the information in order to respond to the witness.

Eveyone in court, including the judge, understood that I had little or no defense in this case. However, I made a defense out of cross examination, a dynamic cross examination.

Textbook Cross Of The Interrogating Detective | Several Lawyers Have Called This Cross “Brilliant” And Insisted On Publication

Sometimes, a cross examination of a witness flows so smoothly, is so powerful and so totally destroys the witness’s testimony that even the opposing side is left in awe.  Most lawyers never accomplish such a cross examination.  Some of the top lawyers, experience this feat several times.  The best of the best know this feeling well — this is the high bar that they set for themselves.  In a drug case that Rockind Law is still litigating, the prosecution called a witness to the stand to testify to our client’s supposedly incriminating and contradictory statements made during a police interrogation.   My cross examination was so compelling that one of the prosecutors when it was over, pulled me aside and paid me a compliment.  That same prosecutor same something similar in our last hearing.  When I said, “you weren’t smirking during that cross examination”, he responded and said, “No, I most certainly was not.”   My co-counsel in the case ordered the transcript and have repeatedly referred to it as a “masterpiece”, “masterful”, “best ever”, “textbook” and the “cross that young lawyers should have to read.”   I can’t tell you whether it was worth that amount of praise, but I remember it and I have to say, as an aficionado of cross examination, I appreciated my own work  on this one.

Take a look.  Take a read.  Let me know what you think.   Click on the Cross Examination Transcript to read the entire cross for yourself.

Rockind Textbook X Photo

Rockind Textbook X

Creating Something From Nothing | Killer Cross Examination

It happens many times.  I sit down and start reading through police reports in the case and the case looks bleak or there appear to be too few issues for us to challenge.  I look at the case from different angles and perspectives and still see very little.  This has happened to every lawyer.  Some admit it.  Some don’t.  However, it is at these moments that the great lawyers separate themselves from the pack — they create something from nothing.

Young lawyers want to know, when they reach these points:

What should they do?

How do good lawyers get past those points and moments?

How can they learn to do it?

These questions are not easily answered.  Some lawyers learn how to handle these situations and some don’t.  However, make no mistake about it … in these moments you must create something out of nothing.  You must look past the words on the page, imagine what was happening and taking place, imagine whether what the police claim they observed is in fact reliable or is what you imagined occurring more believable.  Make no mistake about it, I do not mean lie … I mean be creative:

“see what is there to be seen but that which is not obvious.”

Once you imagine a strategy, you’ve got to bring it to life and there is no surer way than by using a killer cross examination. Let me show you an example from a case that Rockind Law handled and won where the police reports seemed bleak but I saw what was there to be seen but that which was not obvious and then used a killer cross examination to bring it to life.

In this case, our client was caught with pounds of marijuana in a backpack in his car.  What was particularly troubling was that the cop claimed that our client made damning admissions during the traffic stop.  What’s worse?  The traffic stop and encounter was recorded and … our client did make damning admissions to the officer.   While our client was talking to the officer, he was not in handcuffs, was in his own car and was not told that he was under arrest.  It seemed like so many traffic stops and sad to say, our Supreme Court has already previously ruled that roadside questioning during a traffic stop does not ordinarily give rise to Miranda warnings.  Except when I watched the squad car video, I noticed that from the start, the officer ordered our client to keep his hands outside the window of his, an extremely unnatural position.  Worse, after playing and replaying the video, I captured one moment where the officer “threatened” our client with physical action if he moved his hands.  I decided to attempt to turn these facts into a claim that our client was “detained”, “in custody” and thus interrogated by the officer without the benefit of Miranda.  Take a read:

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Notice how I took two (2) simple details, (1) the officer ordering our client’s hands to be outside of the car window and his not having access to his hands to do even the simplest things, e.g., rub an eye, scratch an itch, and (2) the officer’s threat (on video/audio) when our client started to gesture towards his bag, and weaved them into a comparison to “custody”, “the functional equivalent of being handcuffed” and his “freedom of movement being deprived in a significant way.”  As a result, the damning statements that came during that period of time were excluded as the product of “custodial interrogation” without Miranda warnings.

The next time that you’re struggling with a case, take a step back and think outside the box.  You have look past the words and see what is not easily seen or readily apparent.  Once you do, use a killer cross examination to bring that strategy to life.

About Neil Rockind

Neil Rockind is a criminal defense trial lawyer with Rockind Law, a Michigan law firm that handles only criminal defense cases.  Neil Rockind has been awarded nearly every award and honor given out to lawyers, including being named a Leader in the Law, a Super Lawyer, the Best of Detroit, a Leading Lawyer and among the Top 10 Criminal Defense lawyers in the state.  Neil Rockind is also the WDIV-TV legal expert commenting on legal issues and is often sought out for commentary by radio and newspaper reporters.  Both Neil Rockind and Colin Daniels, attorneys with Rockind Law, have been named Super Lawyers by Thomson Reuters.

An Excerpt Of A Cross Examination Of A Witness Cooperating With The Prosecution

The cooperating witness has many names:  cooperator, informer, snitch, turncoat, benedict arnold, betrayer, etc.  Many lawyers are afraid to confront the cooperating witness.  A killer cross examination is necessary to undermine the reliability of the witness and at the same time, undermine the prosecution’s case.

A young lady referred to two local judges in a very derogatory fashion.  I had a tape recording of a conversation in which she had made this reference — it was a reference that was unlikely to be uttered or heard in the middle of a drunk driving case, but it turns out that it was one of the elements of a killer cross examination that helped obtain an acquittal for our client.  The case, one of the hardest that I have tried, involved the “switching seats” defense:  the claim that our client (the passenger) switched seats with the driver during the traffic stop in an effort to throw off the police.  The two were cousins.  Our client claimed to have switched seats.  When she was charged and prosecuted, she expected her cousin to come forward and tell the truth and free our client.  It did not go down that way.  Unfortunately, her cousin abandoned her.  Worse, her cousin turned on her and actually attempted to testify that she was only the passenger and that our client was indeed the driver.  The cousin was “cooperating with the prosecution.”  A killer cross examination was needed.  I delivered one.

This excerpt is a small part of the cross examination of the informant/cooperating witness in this case.  I will reveal more excerpts over the succeeding days and weeks.  Of course, you’re wondering how the derogatory reference became a part of a drunk driving trial?  Well … The witness and our client had talked on the phone about the case.  The phone call was tape recorded.  At one point, the pair discussed their judges (the cousin had an MIP).  The cousin stated that “they both sound like whores.”   A killer cross examination involves the use of wit and positioning of witnesses and so we positioned the witness to use this offensive quote.  I questioned her about respecting others and the Court.  She stated that she respected everyone, especially the Court.

Do you think that  referring to a judge as a “whore” is a sign of respect?

Read on for this and more of my cross examination of a cooperating witness in this case.

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