What are legitimate ways to contradict a witness in the court?

If you are asking whether there are “legitimate” ways to make truthful witness look inaccurate or dishonest (meaning there are ways to do it that won’t get you in trouble), there are tricks that may and often do work to bring about such a result. Damn you to hell if you employ any such tricks, but here are some that I am aware of (which I share with those of you who are about to be questioned by unscrupulous attorneys and/or judges who are trying to discredit you—forewarned is forearmed): 

When cross-examining the witness: 

  1. Overstate, understate, and otherwise outright misstate the witness’s testimony in your questioning (put words in the witness’s mouth), yet make it seem to the witness that you are simply trying to summarize or rephrase the testimony accurately. This way you mischaracterize the witness’s testimony yet you may dupe the witness into “agreeing” that your summary/rephrasing is accurate. 
  2. Ask questions that embarrass, humiliate, and upset the witness, so that the witness responds rudely and by arguing with and insulting you. Imply that the witness is bigoted and a hypocrite. Either way or both ways, you hope that the judge and jury will reject the witness’s testimony on that basis, not on the basis of whether the witness is honest. 
  3. Ask the witness bogus questions that sound as though they are plausibly based upon truth but that you know the witness will deny as false. Done “well”, this technique of eliciting repeated denials creates the false impression that the witness must be lying about something because the lawyer cross examining the witness couldn’t possibly be asking so many questions without the witness acknowledging at least some of them to be true.


Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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