Published on March 15, 2011 | by LawNews
Prof. Jacob Stevens Weighs In on Irvin Younger’s 1975 Ten Commandments of Cross-Examination
By Ambrose Clancy
Long Island Business News
March 9, 2011
For Jacob Stevens, the third commandment, “Use only leading questions,” can be a trap. “It’s death to bore your audience and constantly asking, ‘Isn’t it true that …?’ is a risk you’ll do that.”
Stevens is a professor of law and the attorney-in-charge of the criminal justice clinic at Hofstra Law School. He works with second-and third-year law students who represent clients – most of them requiring legal aid – in misdemeanor cases. Although the majority of cases are either settled or dismissed, there are some cases that go to trial and a budding lawyer will conduct cross examinations.
The first commandment, “Be brief,” can lead to a worthless cross examination, Stevens said. “Instead of just being brief, be complete,” he added. “Sometimes you’re so brief a judge or jury will fail to fully understand your questioning.”
The greatest challenge for young lawyers learning techniques of cross examination is not addressed by Younger’s commandments, Stevens believes. “They have to know who he or she is,” he said.
This means being confident in projecting their own personalities and not imitating some characters they’ve seen on TV.
“Everyone wants to be a killer,” Stevens said. “But what you should want is for people to identify with who you are.”
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