Tag Archive for: trial lawyer

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

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:

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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?”:

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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:

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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”:

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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.

DUI Cross: The ABC Test Is Ridiculous

For years, police officers have used the “ABC’s” or alphabet test as a means of drunk driving or intoxicated driving detection. Cops can be heard doing the following: 

Say the alphabet from A to T or say but don’t sing the alphabet. 

There is no science behind this test as a means of detecting drunk driving.  None at all.  It is unscientific and subjective: the rules change with each giving is the test.  Despite these shortcomings, some lawyers don’t know how to cross examine a police officer that still uses this test. 

Here is my killer cross examination of a police officer using this subjective test.  Pay attention to how I did the following:

  • Set up the lack of science;
  • Setup the test as subjective meaning that there are no guidelines for how to score it; and,
  • Tie that to the case. 

Here is how I did it recently:     

     
  
  

 Notice how I got the officer to concede that it was not scientific and that it was subjective and then proceeded to ask him how our client did on this “subjective” test.  By the time I concluded this section of the cross examination, I had proven that

  • The officer used an unscientific test;
  • Knew it was subjective and unscientific; and,
  • Despite the unfairness of it, our client did the test well. 

In other words, we undermined the field sobriety investigation and created doubt that our client was jntoxicated. 

Stay tuned for more examples of killer cross examinations on www.killercrossexamination.com.

Killer Cross Examination Is Effective

While we normally don’t put quotes or testimonials on this website and instead reserve it for cross examination pieces and excerpts, I thought it appropriate here.  We just finished an OWI/DUI – 3rd Offense trial in which our client was acquitted.  Every one of the state’s witnesses testified “for the defense.”  How is that possible?  Killer Cross Examination.  

The client, publicly, shared her observations of the effectiveness of the style in a recent post on www.Avvo.com :

“He strategically cross examines the witnesses against you in a way that I think they even start to believe that they’re wrong for even being against you.”

Stay tuned for more cross examination tips from Neil Rockind, author of killer cross examination.

If A Cop Could Tap Out During Cross Examination – This Was That Time

Ronda Rousey is famous for her ability to quickly force a victory by submission in professional mixed martial arts fighting.

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Getting opponents to tap out, i.e., submit and quit, is quite an accomplishment and Rousey has it down to both a science and an art form.  The tap out, i.e., sign of submission, is just that — a literal “tapping” of the fingers or hand.

Some police officers, during a killer cross examination by yours truly, have clearly wanted to tap out or submit.  At some point in the cross examination, I can sense when a witness wants to tap out, if only there was some way to do so.

We recently tried (to jury) a drunk driving case in which the police officer, undoubtedly, wanted to tap out.  Some cross examinations produce one, two, maybe three good exchanges between the examiner and the witness but this cross examination was relentless — the officer at one point looking like he wanted to tap out.  Take a peak at how in each series we setup the so-called submission move, i.e, the powerful moments where the witness is admitting that his prior testimony was incorrect, he erred, he was lazy/made assumptions or is undermining his case.  Imagine him sitting there, not knowing when it will end and wishing for a way to make it stop, i.e., to tap out.

The Driver

At the scene of the stop, our client claimed that another man was driving the car and had left prior to the officer arriving.  The officer attempted to suggest that he searched for records of the other individual.  That didn’t go well:

Q:  how’d you spell the last name that you looked up?
A:  multiple ways.
Q:  tell me.
A:  (cop does one)
Q:  others.
A:  (cop does one more)
Q:  wouldn’t a way to see if the accused has a friend or connection named that be to check Facebook for a Facebook friend?
A:  I suppose.
Q:  if he has a friend with a name like that, wouldn’t a way to see whether or not you got the name correct to check Facebook?
A:  yes.
Q:  you didn’t check.
A:  no.
Q:  when you ran [that name] through CLEMIS or LIEN and claimed that nothing showed up, you’re purpose was to suggest to the jury that this person doesn’t exist?
A:  attempting to suggest that there’s been no driver, nobody came forward.
Q:  that’s not the defense’s responsibility, to prove a defense, is it?
A: no.

As bad as that sounds, it only gets worse:

Q:  The quality of the search of the name is only as good as the names you type in?
A:  Correct.
Q:  you’ve heard of garbage in, garbage out?
A:  we’ve seen one in another in court on this case before right?
Q:  you never once asked me how the name of the driver was spelled, did you?
A: no.
Q:  you made an assumption about the name?
A: I used what I heard and what I —
Q:  What you heard?
A:  what I heard on the video?
Q:  so if you heard it wrong that means that the name you looked up is wrong?
A: correct.
Q:  so your search doesn’t tell us very much does it?
A: correct.

At this point, I recall the officer looking around as though he wanted to be anywhere else.  However, this exchange was within the first 6 pages of my cross examination of the officer.  In other words, this was the beginning.

The House Was Dark

The officer also tried to testify that when he pulled up, all of the lights were off in my client’s house and thus, he concluded, that our client had not come from his house to his car to get something but instead had just returned from driving.  Like the subject of the name of the driver, this cross examination section was devastating to the officer’s credibility.  While “Gotcha” moments rarely happen in court, we produced one here.

In order to pull off what you’re about to read, you must thoroughly prepare to cross examine the police officer.  I don’t mean “read the police reports” but rather, you have to think about each strand of the officer’s claims and examine them from different angles and different perspectives asking:

  • is this true?
  • could be this an an exaggeration?
  • how could this wrong?
  • is this an assumption?
  • etc.

When the officer claimed that there were no lights on in the house, I was curious if that was true.  I imagined a moment in which I could show lights on in the house … I thought how devastating this would be the state’s case:  a true “gotcha” moment.  I planned.

First, I watched the video carefully and at a painstakingly slow speed.  After multiple frame by frame segments, I saw it … the house and a light on inside.  Second, I noted the time.  Third, I took multiple still photos from the video program itself, from my computer still photograph program and with other devices.  Fourth, I identified every possible landmark I could and pointed to them with an indicator.  Last, I took daytime photos to show the same angles and landmarks.   My plan, unfurl this examination piece by piece so that the officer was trapped and forced to reveal that he was wrong and had made a devastating and prejudicial assumption.  To the person watching, it would have seemed like I was just up there talking to the cop about this stuff but this was the product of a plan and the execution of the plan:

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When I question the officer about which house was the accused’s, you’ll notice him fight and obfuscate a bit.  I don’t mind at all … to me, he is walking right into the cross examination trap that we’ve laid out for him.

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Because he tried to suggest that “he didn’t know” which house it was, we start identify landmarks for him to “assist” him and to show the jury that he is not being forthright.IMG_0004

At this point, using our exhibits, I attempt to identify several landmarks for the officer:IMG_0005 IMG_0006

As you observed, I continued to use our exhibits to identify the house for the officer and jury.  We identified two ceramic, distinctive and unique lawn ornaments and zeroed in on those and the house between them and as you’ll see, the cross comes together at this point.  The evidence is undeniable and devastating:  the house between the lawn ornaments (the balls) is the accused’s house and …. there is a light on in the house.  Which leads to the final questions:  there was a light on in the accused’s house and that he was wrong about the absence of a light.IMG_0007

That’s a light on in the house you’ve identified as [the accused’s] house, isn’t it? Here is the answer —

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The cross examination continued past this point but the killer cross examination approach had already won the case.   The witness made assertions and those assertions turned out to be wrong and, worse, were proven wrong before the jury.  Just as Rousey does in her matches, she goes for a submission early on and is typically successful.  This is no accident.  My killer cross examination did the same … if the officer could have tapped out then, he would have.  Several hours later, when the proofs were in, the jury did it for him and found our client not guilty.