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Prosecutor cross-examining Kyle Rittenhouse

As we discuss in Cross-Examination Handbook, there is no specific time frame that fits all cross-examinations because the extent of cross will vary depending upon the circumstances of the case. However, endless cross is tiresome, and the jurors will not recall much beyond the high points. Therefore, we recommend brevity. By editing down the content, the cross-examiner can better maintain the jury’s interest and be more effective. 

To make the best allocation of time and to have a powerful cross, adhere to the following four guidelines:

1. Limit the total number of topical units to be covered to less than a handful—three is ideal;

2. Go big not small—focus your cross on only significant points—avoid minutiae;

3. Once you have covered the material in a unit, such as cross on an expert’s bias, move on to the next unit; 

4.    Don’t repeat the direct examination – have the witness repeat the witness’s story, and 

5. Above all, do not be tempted to conduct an exploratory cross because something the witness testified to piqued your curiosity.

An illustration of a cross that went on too long is the prosecutor’s cross-examination of Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse was eventually acquitted in the murder trial over centering on whether he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed two white men during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. You can watch the cross-examination although it ran over 3 hours and you may not last that long. Too long, do you think?


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