Book Review

Publication year2021
CitationVol. 34 No. 1 Pg. 44
Book Review
No. Vol. 34 No. 1 Pg. 44
Utah Bar Journal
February, 2021

January, 2021

Winning at Cross-Examination:

A Modern Approach for Depositions and Trials

by Shane Read Reviewed by Darin B. Goff

Romero’s bull-fighting gave real emotion, because he kept the absolute purity of line in his movements and always quietly and calmly let the horns pass him close each time. He did not have to emphasize their closeness.”

— Ernest Hemingway, THE SUN ALSO RISES

In the public imagination, the confrontation between lawyer and witness during cross-examination is the dramatic turning point in which sinister falsehoods are exposed and justice prevails. Like Hemingway’s elegant matadors in Pamplona’s arena, the lawyer skillfully provokes charge after charge while stepping gracefully out of the way until the exhausted witness surrenders to the killing stroke and confesses the truth.

In non-fiction, however, the lawyer often gets gored. Flat-footed lawyers bludgeon witnesses with exhaustive pre-prepared questions on inconsequential details, indignantly argue when the witness will not concede, and lose credibility with juries when the cross-examination fails to support the lawyer’s theory of the case. The lawyer returns to counsel table, wounded or worse, the witness evades what was supposed to be his fate, and the fatigued jury daydreams of lunch. In my own career of over twenty-five years, I can identify precisely two occasions where my cross in trial or deposition resulted in an admission consistent with unconditional surrender. More often, I have been drawn into close-range street fights with stubborn witnesses who could take a punch. Hand-to-hand combat with a witness does not favor the lawyer. I am convinced that I gained little or nothing for my clients in these brawls.

Shane Read’s book Winning at Cross-Examination: A Modern Approach for Depositions and Trials aims to increase the odds of a successful confrontation in the lawyer’s favor. He advocates a “ground-up” approach beginning with a thorough understanding of the relevant jury instructions and the development of themes at the inception of the case, followed by a thoughtful but limited cross-examination focused on no more than three areas. His methods, however, are not for the undisciplined or anyone lacking sufficient time to effectively work their case.

Read begins by insisting that the lawyer develop a winning case strategy at the inception of the case. He breaks this requirement down into three subparts: (1) What is the law that governs your case? (2) What is your bottom-line message? and (3) How are you going to tell your story? He argues persuasively that no cross-examination, either in deposition or trial, will be successful without a robust understanding of the law that governs the case and directs his readers to research the...

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