Cross-Examination: Psychology in Practice

Cross-Examination: Psychology in Practice

A variety of psychological factors come into play when lawyers cross-examines a witness. It is often not what questions are asked, but how they are asked, and to what end they are given. A few important principles are:

  • The Doctrine of Completion: As a general rule a listener (e.g. a jury) expects to hear certain things from a presenter (e.g. a witness). The jury expects a coherent story and fairness (ie; facts and pieces of the story are not hidden from them). They expect the attorney and witness will tell a full and complete story, without hiding anything. The purpose of cross-examination then becomes to let the jury know that they attorney is fulfilling the requirement to have a complete and whole story, that fairness and completeness is the goal. The attorney is held out as someone is interested in the Doctrine of Completeness.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: An attorney can employ this tactic and become “prophetic” by providing the jury during Voir Dire and the opening statements facts and information that is then corroborated by the witnesses and documents they provide as evidence. The psychological advantage is gained when the information appears unknown or unexpected – as if the lawyer, and the lawyer alone – knew that it would be revealed. During closing arguments, it is critical to remind the jury that you predicted the information would come out, and that it actually was presented in court. The overall purpose of this tactic is to enhance the credibility of the attorney and to highlight and enforce certain key facts or elements of the case.

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Driving You Crazy – Psychology Experts In Criminal Cases – Virtues and Vices

Driving You Crazy – Psychology Experts In Criminal Cases – Virtues and Vices

Bringing a psychology expert into your criminal case can be a mixed bag.  Many positive things can happen when engaging such an expert, but there are also many pitfalls to avoid.  Generally, a well-prepared expert can be a great boon to your case, but beware of potential vices that may be lurking inside their testimony.  Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Pros – Expertise: It’s no secret your expert knows a lot of information, they are well educated and well-spoken.  They bring a myriad of positive attributes to the courtroom:  1) Reliability: experts are seen as professionals and sometimes scientists who base their conclusions on fact and are therefore reliable. 2) Psychology experts know statistics and based their reports and testimony on data gleaned from the real world.  3) Test – your psychological expert knows psychological testing, its benefits and weaknesses.  Make sure to use your expert to attack the ‘reliability’ of the opposing party’s evidence, as opposed to its credibility.
  • Pro – Experience: Your expert knows about pop culture psychological references and phone or even sham psychological syndromes that may be introduced by opposing counsel.  Use your expert to debunk these misconceptions.  Also, emphasize that your expert has a long history of education and training.  This is not their first “rodeo”.  Have the demonstrate the similarities between your case and cases the expert has dealt with in the, have them discuss what techniques opposing counsel is likely to use and why.

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