Tag Archive for: wayne

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.

 

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:

Sommers- Cross Blog 4

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:

sommers Cross Blog 7

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.

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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Using Real Time “In The Moment” And Common Sense – Critical Elements Of A Killer Cross Examination

Neil Rockind, author of killercrossexamination.com, shares tips and real world examples of cross examinations to help lawyers develop a Killer Cross Examination | Using Real Time

Many trial teachers and instructors teach students to be “in the moment” yet having watched many of the lawyers who were educated in this fashion ply their trade, I am convinced that too few actually practice what they learned or preached.  Many lawyers think that being in the moment means being emotionally in touch with the witness or their own feelings, etc.  I view it differently.  In a killer cross examination, “being in the moment” is actually being in a conversation with someone and actually reacting to the information that the other person is saying and the manner in which they sharing it.   Rather than referring to it as “being in the moment,” I prefer to think of it as using “real time” and encourage lawyers to react in real time.  This is critically important in a killer cross examination:  react to things being said and done in real time.  Think about it as if there was little opportunity to think — imagine yourself in a tennis match in which your opponent hits a shot cross court.  You are going to “react” in real time to the cross court volley, chase down the ball, size up where your opponent is on the court and attempt to hit a winner.  In some circumstances, continuing with the tennis analogy, you make not even have time, in real time, to try and do anything other than just chase the ball down and attempt to hit it.  One thing I know, however, is that if your opponent hits the ball to your right, you’re going to move left — if he hits a drop shot, you’re going to run towards the net, not back up behind the baseline.  “Real Time” reactions.

A recent cross examination that I conducted in a contested DUI/OWI-Accident case is a prime example of a real time reaction to a witness’ testimony.  In this case, our client was accused of operating or driving while intoxicated.  An accident was reported involving a red Jeep.   We believed that the officer’s stop of the vehicle and detention of the driver was unlawful.  Our principle argument rested on the fact that the officer that made the stop did not identify or even attempt to identify the most significant detail given to him by dispatch:  the involved vehicle should have heavy damage.  It was my position that the police should have done whatever was minimally intrusive to our client’s constitutional rights and that he must, before approaching and communicating with our client, look at the vehicle to see whether it matches that given by dispatch:  a vehicle with heavy damage that was in an accident.  Let’s take a look:

In this passage, you’ll see that I set the officer up with my premise, i.e., that he should take the least intrusive means when making a traffic stop.  By taking the least intrusive means, the accused’s constitutional rights are least impacted.  I pose this to him in a way that is hard for him to deny:

Hroba - Real Time 1

After getting him to agree that the least intrusive means test, I walk the officer down the path, taking small steps — first asking him to agree that the least intrusive means would be to identify a car, matching color, matching make and matching “heavy damage.”

Now I move in for kill, i.e., that the officer did not attempt to take the least intrusive means, because he failed to identify whether the vehicle that he was stopping had “heavy damage.”  However, as you’ll see the officer attempts to give me a hard time.

 

Hroba Real Time 4

Here is how he tries to give me a hard time by saying that he “was behind the vehicle,” an answer to a question that I never asked.  In the moment, in real time, I pursue it — reacting to not getting the answer to my questions:

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As you can see, he was persistent — he was trying to dodge the issue but I was not letting go.  I was listening and reacting in “real time” to what he was saying:  him citing to my suggestion as “unreasonable” was too calculating and argumentative.  Just like I would with someone in my family who was trying to ” bs” me, I reacted in real time to what the witness said.  Him claiming that it was unreasonable suggested to me that he had thought about doing as I suggested but deciding against it — accordingly, I questioned about just that:

hroba real time 7

 

Rather than going away, crawling into a hole or feeling like the witness was getting away from the point that we were making, in real time I considered the answer, the implications of it and questioned him:   he was offering a justification for not having done something and by doing so he was necessarily implying that he  had thought about it but decided against it.  I ask him, “you’re giving a justification … which suggests that you thought about it but just didn’t do it…?”  I was listening, thinking and responding.   My opponent had hit a volley and I was chasing it down and then going to return it for a winner.   I didn’t stand there stuck on some note page with pre-printed questions.  I was live, in real time and reacting.  This is part of a killer cross examination. 

Of course, the witness cannot concede that point for fear of looking stupid.  He knows it too.   So when I ask him the question, he is stuck with having to agree and … he did:

Hroba Real Time x 9

Trapped with a real time, in time confrontation, i.e., challenging his assertion with logic and reason, he returns to the point that we were trying to make with this line of cross examination and concedes the point:

Hroba Real Time x 10

 

This is just one example of a killer cross examination: one that controls the witness but one that is dynamic where the questioner responds in real time to comments and testimony offered by the witness.  The witness was trying undermine our arguments and help the government’s case.  He knew he was trapped when I questioned him about the least intrusive means and with questions that inspecting whether the vehicle had damage was “least intrusive.”  He knew he was cornered and rather than concede that point, he tried to argue with me:  “that would not be reasonable,” he responded.  Yet, were he to have made that judgment on the road, that would necessarily mean that he had thought about it and decided not to check whether the car had damage.  I questioned him about that inference and he knew that in the process of trying to wiggle out, my grip had become tighter.

Killer cross examination is a fluid, dynamic, in time, real time style of cross examination that involves preparation, knowledge, wit and reason.   It is my style of cross examination.   Maybe you can add some elements of this type to your cross examinations as well.  Good luck.