Book Review: Excellence in Cross-Examination

As a young criminal defense attorney in the early 1970s, I cross-examined police officers and identification witnesses on behalf of defendants who entrusted their liberty to a lawyer who was hardworking but inexperienced. I tried to compensate by finding (and sometimes by purchasing) transcripts of the cross-examinations conducted by the great trial lawyers of the time. From the transcripts of masterful cross-examinations by enormously skilled examiners like F. Lee Bailey, Edward Bennett Williams, and my partner at the time, Joseph Oteri, I began to fill the void left by a law school education that in no way trained its graduates for the challenges of the courtroom. It was one thing to know the rules of evidence from the perspective of reading appeals, and quite another to develop the instincts to object to hearsay or lay opinions or just improperly worded questions before and not after the damage was done. Likewise, learning the language of confrontation was a light year away from reading the classic Sixth Amendment decisions by the Supreme Court that legitimized the wide-ranging but not limitless examinations that are the DNA of effective cross-examination.