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Cross-Examination: How to Impeach by Contradiction



              OJ Simpson and his legal team

We are now examining the second impeachment wrecking crew—The Faulty Report. There are three techniques you can employ to show the witness’s report is improbable:

1. Reduction to the Absurd Technique

2. Common Sense Technique

3. Contradictory Conduct Technique

In the prior posts the first two techniques were discussed and illustrated. Here we cover the Contradictory Conduct Technique that can be applied to show that the witness’s testimony is improbable. 

The OJ Simpson trial provides a good example of how to employ this contradiction technique. A portion of F. Lee Bailey’s cross-examination of the lead detective Mark Furhman went as follows:

Bailey: Q:  Do you use the word “nigger” in describing people?

Ms. Clark:  Same objection.

The Court:  Presently?

Bailey:  Yes.

The Court:  Overruled.

Furhman: A:  No, Sir.

Bailey:  Q:  Have you used that word in the past ten years?

A:  Not that I recall.  No.

Q:  You mean if you called someone a nigger you have forgotten it?

A:  I’m not sure I can answer the question the way you phrased it, Sir.

Q: You have difficulty understanding the question?

A:  Yes.

Q:  I will rephrase it.  I want you to assume that perhaps at some time, since 1985 or 6, you addressed a member of the African American race as a nigger.  Is it possible that you have forgotten that act on your part?

A:  No, it is not possible. 

Q:  Are you therefore saying that you have not used that word in the past ten years, detective Fuhrman?

A:  Yes, that is what I’m saying.

Q:  And you say under oath that you have not addressed any black person as a nigger or spoken about black people as niggers in the past ten years, detective Furhman?

A:  That’s what I’m saying, Sir.

Mark Furhman

The defense called witnesses to say he used the word, and the defense produced an audio tape in which he said the word. Furhman was later convicted of perjury and sentenced to three years probation – now lives in Idaho.

A limitation on how you may contradict a witness is that you may not pit one witness against another—it’s called “pitting”.  Here is a further discussion of pitting.


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