To catch a witness in a lie.
During cross examination.
That's the search for the truth.
That's my opportunity to point out that this doctor is inconsistent.
That's my opportunity to show to the jury that this doctor cannot be trusted.
Every lawyer dreams of that moment at trial when a witness breaks down and admits everything.
Every trial attorney wants to prolong that moment if and when it comes.
The reality is that it doesn't happen that way as commonly seen in the movies and on TV.
If and when we do catch a witness in a lie, many attorneys, especially novice attorneys want to repeatedly show the jury that this witness is a liar.
“I'm sorry Doctor, I didn't hear that answer. Could you please repeat it?”
Or “Judge, could I have the court reporter read back the last answer? I didn't hear what the doctor said.”
Then you have attorneys who repeat the question hoping the doctor will repeat the incorrect and inconsistent answer.
Then you have other attorneys who simply say “Doctor, let's see if I understand you correctly... You just said a moment ago that... Is that true?”
An attorney who uses these tactics run the very real risk of overdoing it.
When the jury hears the inconsistency the first time, they heard it.
A third time and they know you are really trying to highlight this lie.
Some jurors might question why you have to work so hard in order to highlight something so obvious.
The other problem with repeating the question and answer and highlighting it while the doctor is on the witness stand is that it gives him an opportunity to explain or change his answer.
That is never a good strategy or tactic.
There's a better way to deal with that.