A Great Moment in Trial Lawyering
Submitted for your approval: my recall of a minute of Richard “Racehorse” Haynes’s cross-examination today of the cooperating codefendant in the murder case he’s trying. Richard is a great listener and a very patient questioner.
Haynes: Then you appealed your case. Snitch: Yes. Haynes: Because you thought the government owed you something. Snitch: No, because I thought my lawyer did a bad job. Haynes: He did a bad job in getting you this deal? Snitch: He didn’t call my witnesses. Haynes: What witnesses didn’t he call? Snitch: My mother. My sister. Haynes: Your mother knew about the crime? Snitch: No. I lied to her about it. Haynes: Like you lied to the police about it. Snitch: Yes. Haynes: Because you were trying to avoid getting in trouble. Snitch: Yes. Haynes: And you wanted to bring your mother in to court to lie for you.
Ouch. This is just one taste of why witnesses have described cross-examination by Richard as “death by a thousand cuts.” During the hour or so of cross I was able to watch today, he probably made 80 such cuts.
By the way, Richard did not know the answers to his second, third, fourth, or fifth questions. “Never ask a question that you don’t know the answer to” is a fine rule for law school trial ad competitions and for civil “litigators” who get to rehearse every cross-examination in a deposition, but a trial lawyer has got to follow his instincts.
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