Thursday, May 26, 2022


Herman Wouk's great masterpiece is The CaineMutiny about sailors on a World War II destroyer minesweeper who mutiny against their incompetent Captain Queeg. Wouk wrote The Caine Mutiny play and for a while worked on the script for the movie in which Humphrey Bogart gave an Oscar winning performance as Captain Queeg in the Caine Mutiny movie.

The basic facts underlying the court-martial case are that Lieutenant Stephen Maryk relieves Queeg of command of the USS Caine when Captain Queeg freezes up during a typhoon. Maryk has a belief from Queeg’s prior behavior that he is mentally unbalanced. Maryk is on trial for conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.

Lieutenant Greenwald’s cross-examination of Queeg is the high point in the movie. Beyond that, it is a superb illustration of how to conduct a concession-seeking cross-examination. The concession-seeking cross-examination strategy is discussed at length in Cross-Examination Handbook.

 Time after time, Greenwald confronts Queeg with truths that Queeg must concede or stamp his answer as either a lie, mistaken or ridiculous. Why must Queeg concede? It is because Greenwald can prove what he is asserts either by circumstantial or direct evidence or by plain common sense. Greenwald knows the answers to every cross-examination question he asks.

It is Greenwald’s turn to testify, not Queeg’s. It’s his opportunity to lay out the truths. These truths all support the ultimate conclusion—Queeg is unstable and unfit for command.

Here are those truths: (1) Queeg steamed over the Caine’s tow line; (2) Queeg was distracted during the towing maneuver because he was reprimanding a seaman over an un-tucked shirt; (3) Queeg having just testified that Maryk was unfit had previously written a glowing fitness report about him; (4) Queeg ordered that the Caine steam ahead of an attack force, drop a yellow dye marker and retreat; and (5) Queeg was obsessed with a search for a key that would have led to a missing quart of strawberries when he had been told by an officer that the mess boys had eaten the strawberries. When confronted by Greenwald with the fact that the officer who told Queeg about the mess boys eating the strawberries could be called to testify, Queeg loses his composure, rolling two metal balls around in his hand as he babbles on (masterful performance by Bogart). Naturally, Maryk is acquitted.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Visuals as Weapons for Cross-Examination


Seattle University Law School has an online course entitled “Visual Litigation and Today’s Technology" that I teach. Cross-examination visuals are featured because visuals can be extremely powerful weapons for cross-examination. They can be used to gain concessions supporting your case theory and undermining the other side’s case theory. 

Visuals can also be very effective for impeaching a witness. For examples, impeachment visuals can include: a prior inconsistent statement either in a document or in a visual, such as a video deposition; a prior conviction—judgment and sentence document; a visual that establishes that the witness did not have personal knowledge about that which the witness testified; a visual that proves that the witness’s testimony is improbable; a visual that reveals the witness’s bias or interest; and a statement in a learned treatise that conflicts with the witness’s testimony.

“Visual Litigation and Today’s Technology” is a 2-credit course. In this Visual Litigation and Today's Technology online course, students interested in litigation learn how to integrate technology into their trial visual presentations. Just as visuals and technology have become a centerpiece in modern life, they also are the centerpiece in trial. Judges and jurors expect lawyers to use visuals with today’s technology.

The course is taught in the context of mock civil and criminal cases, giving students simulated real-world experiences working with visuals and cutting-edge technology. This experiential course will allow students in role-play assignments to plan the cross-examination of witnesses with visuals. 

This course is comprehensive in its exploration of visual communication strategies and technology, including, among other topics: the ethical and legal boundaries to what visuals may be displayed in trial; evidentiary foundations for visuals (animations, demonstrations, laser scanner images and so on); visual advocacy in both a pretrial venue and a courtroom, from opening statement through closing argument; the creation of visuals; litigation software, such as Sanction, TrialPad, and SmartDraw; and meeting the trial judge's expectations of a trial lawyer's competency when employing technology.

The book Visual Litigation: Visual Communication Strategies and Today’s Technology is published by Full Court Press, the publishing arm of Fastcase. The text offers examples of how visuals were used on cross-examination in notable cases, such as Abraham Lincoln’s cross-examination with a Farmer’s Almanac or the prosecutor’s cross-examination of Richard Hauptmann in the Lindbergh kidnapping/murder case with a ransom note and Hauptmann’s diary.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022



Advice from David Paul Jones’s Rules of Cross-Examination, a British barrister who wrote this over a century and a half ago:
1.                  Except in indifferent matters, never take your eye from that of the witness; this is a channel of communication from mind to mind, the loss of which nothing can compensate. Truth, falsehood, hatred, anger, scorn, despair, and all the passions--all the soul--is there.                         

2.                  Be not regardless, either, of the voice of the witness; next to the eye this is perhaps the best interpreter of his mind. The mental reservation of the witness--is often manifested in the tone or accent or emphasis of the voice.

3.                  Be mild with the mild; shrewd with the crafty; confiding with the honest; merciful to the young, the frail, or the fearful; rough to the ruffian, and a thunderbolt to the liar. But in all this, never be unmindful of your own dignity. Bring to bear all the powers of your mind, not that you may shine, but that virtue may triumph, and your cause may prosper.

4.                  An equivocal question is almost as much to be avoided and condemned as an equivocal answer; and it always leads to, or excuses, an equivocal answer. Singleness of purpose, clearly expressed is the best trait in the examination of witnesses, whether they be honest or the reverse. Falsehood is not detected by cunning, but by the light of truth.

5.                  But in any result, be careful that you do not lose your temper; anger is always either the precursor or evidence of assured defeat in every intellectual conflict.

6.                  Like a skillful chess-player, in every move, fix your mind upon the combinations and relations of the game--partial and temporary success may otherwise end in total and remediless defeat.

7.                  Never undervalue your adversary, but stand steadily upon your guard; a random blow may be just as fatal as though it were directed by the most consummate skill; the negligence of one often cures, and sometimes renders effective, the blunders of another.

8.                  Be respectful to the court and to the jury; kind to your colleague; civil to your antagonist; but never sacrifice the slightest principle of duty to an overweening deference toward either.

9.                  Thus, as you rise to cross-examine a witness, you should be armed with the skill to adopt the style required for this particular witness and jury, the technique to search out the truth, the knowledge of guidelines that have developed over the centuries, and, most important, the wisdom to discern the proper combination of style and technique you need to serve well the consummate role of the cross-examiner--the truth giver.

Friday, May 6, 2022



Impeachment cross-examination helps to build your case theory only in a negative way, by eliminating competition from the opposition’s theory. As we have previously noted, a cross that reveals that the witness’s testimony is essentially improbable nonsense is one way to impeach.

If you can demonstrate that the witness is saying something illogical, you have gone a long way toward impeaching the witness. In a horrific domestic violence case tried a few years ago, a man claimed that his wife had received her injuries by jumping from a moving car. He explained that she had been high on drugs and acting out in bizarre fashion for the past two weeks. The problem with his story, which was pointed out quite well on cross examination, was that he and his wife had just the previous night arrived in Florida on a commercial flight from Nevada. One fertile area of cross examination proved to be a line of questions on how his severely drug impaired wife got through the TSA screening to get on the plane. The defendant also had some difficulty explaining why, after his wife jumped from the moving car, he took her home, hogtied her, and stuffed her in a closet rather than taking her to the emergency room.

Monday, May 2, 2022

6 Best Books on Trial Advocacy



What follows is a list of six of my favorite books on trial advocacy. These books are not strangers to this blog that concentrates on the art and science of advocacy because I have blogged about most of them before. Below you will find the six favorites, including mine of course. With each book, you’ll find a link to where you could purchase it on Amazon as well as a gem from the earlier blogs and links to the full articles should you wish to visit them. 

#1—McElhaney’s Trial Notebook by James W. McElhaney

I treasure my autographed copy of McElhaney’s Trial Notebook. For decades McElhaney, the trial lawyer’s sage, wrote a lead articles for the ABA Journal. In his Trial Notebook, he covers everything from trial preparation through final argument. My favorite part of this favorite book is about Tactics in which you can find chapters on traps, how to deal with dirty tricks, ploys, stock phrases to employ as well as ones to avoid (in opening—“Nothing I say is evidence”), picking the right words, getting along with judges and keeping the client happy. 

#2—In the Interest of Justice—Great Opening and Closing Arguments of the Last 100 Years by Joel J. Seidemann

I’m a firm believer that you can become your best by appropriating skills, strategies, concepts and words from skilled trial lawyers. As Picasso said, ““Good artists copy, great artists steal.” When you set out to craft your opening statement or closing argument, it is always helpful to refer to outstanding opening statements and closing arguments from the past, and In the Interest of Justice provides them.

Seidemann’s book contains excerpts from transcripts that meet Mr. Sideman’s two prerequisites. First, the selected cases are very high profile, including, among others, the trials of: O. J. Simpson; Marv Albert; Sean Puff Daddy Combs; Adolf Eichmann; Martha Stewart; John Scopes; Amadou Diallo; Timothy McVeigh. Second, the advocacy in these cases also satisfies the excellence test, with the lawyers demonstrating how to effectively use these devices: storytelling; analogies; phrasing; humor; pathos; logic; themes and so much more.

#3—Redeeming the Dream by David Boies and Theodore Olson

In their book Redeeming the Dream: Proposition 8 and the Struggle for Marriage Equality, David Boies and Theodore Olson take the reader inside the trial of their case challenging California’s Proposition 8. The book explores everything from preparing the complaint through closing argument and then the appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The book informs the reader about how highly skilled trial lawyers prepare for trial and perform in trial. It also covers the stress, fears and elation that trial lawyers and clients experience in a high-profile case. 

Redeeming the Dream returns again and again to the importance of themes. The development of a case themes and utilizing them in trial is at the core of excellent trial advocacy, For instance, when Ted Olson delivered the opening statement at trial, he led with the case theme: “This case is about marriage and equality. Plaintiffs are being denied the right to marry and equality under the law.”

A winning closing argument is often the product of learning from the best of the best trial lawyers, whether it is a how-to technique for delivery or some content for closing. A valuable resource, particularly for prosecutors, is Vincent Bugliosi’s book about the O. J. Simpson case, entitled Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder. Bugliosi was hands down one of the best trial lawyers in America. 

Why is the book so valuable a guide for shaping a closing argument? First, it is packed with illustrative arguments that can with some modification be adopted by trial lawyers to their cases. When Bugliosi’s book editor asked him to write out the closing he would have given if he had prosecuted Simpson, Bugliosi declined, saying that it would be unrealistic because he normally put three to four hundred hours into prepping his own closings and for that case the closing would have filled a thousand pages of transcript. Instead, he wrote out some of his arguments, which are in bold type. Bugliosi’s “Final Summation” chapter is jammed with arguments and runs a hundred pages.

A second reason that his closing argument chapter is so valuable is because it is filled with gems – arguments that have been cut and polished to perfection. It is apparent that Bugliosi did what all good trial lawyers do; he took many of his arguments that he had crafted and delivered in his over a hundred trials (including 21 murder convictions) and adjusted them to fit the Simpson case. They are tried and true arguments. 

#5—Turning Points at Trial by Shane Read

Turning Points at Trial delivers exceptional trial strategies and techniques in an effective and highly readable fashion. Shane Read, author of Winning at Trial and Winning at Deposition, for this Turning Points at Trial book recruited superb trial lawyers to help with his project and set about interviewing them. Each of those talented lawyers was asked to share the trial skills that turned the trial in their client’s favor. Read gathered transcripts from these lawyers and included excerpts from those transcripts in the book to illustrate the particular trial skills under discussion. Also, Read wanted the ideas in the book to stick with the reader, and this determined which cases he included in his book. Read expressed it this way: “Learning trial skills from great lawyers in the context of these fascinating cases makes them easier to learn and more memorable.”

#6—Trial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis, and Strategy 4th Edition by Marilyn Berger, John Mitchell and Ronald Clark

Naturally, my book Trial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis, and Strategy is included in the list of my six favorite books. The book is divided into 14 chapters with each chapter covering a separate subject—persuasion, jury selection, opening statement, objections and so on. Each chapter presents a theoretical and practical approach to the particular skill, provides illustrations of practice, and offers practical pointers and checklists.

Accompanying the book are Assignments which take the law student or lawyer through the trial process in the context of criminal and civil cases, both of which arise from a tavern shooting after which the victim dies. 

The book has a companion website that holds demonstration movies. Case files, Actors Guide, and a Teacher’s Manual for mock trials and experiential exercises for either professional development CLEs or law school classes are also on the website.