Trial Advocacy

Direct Examination

Direct examination is the questioning of a witness called by the examining party.

When doing direct examination, leading questions are not permitted. You would not want to anyway.

When doing direct examination, you want to ask broad, open questions and let your witness talk so the jury can relate to and sympathize with him.

Good direct examination questions often start with one of these 8 words:

  1. Who
  2. What
  3. Where
  4. When
  5. Why
  6. How
  7. Explain
  8. Describe

You want to avoid simple yes/no questions. (Usually such include forms of "be" such as "were" and "is".)

It's important to end on a good note. Ask background and lead-up questions first, and save the actual event for the end, then end.

  • If your witness starts talking about the event too early, cut him off and say you'll get.

The main ways students lose points on direct are trying to steer and script the witness instead of letting him tell the story naturally, not laying the foundation for evidence, not going through the right steps for admitting evidence, compound questions, and leading questions.

Rost alone will let you give a witness a script to make sure they can do it, but you don't want it to sound scripted.

Just because you can have a witness demonstrate something doesn't mean you should.