Hey Prosecutor, How About Objecting?!

Ever experienced a grueling cross examination and wondered why the prosecutor didn’t object? She may be ignoring you intentionally.


When you feel defensive, you act defensive. If you don't believe that, you're only fooling yourself. You won't fool the jury.

What kind of people act defensive? Guilty people with something to hide. That's what the jury sees when you look at the prosecutor and want her to object. If the prosecutor follows your cue, she communicates to the jury that she's also concerned about the defense attorney's line of questioning and doesn't want the jury to hear it. None of this helps an officer's credibility.

BOTTOM LINE – Only you can win your credibility in court with a judge or jury. The prosecutor can't help you in that regard. If she tries, she'll only make things worse.

This is not to say a prosecutor should never object when an officer is being cross examined. As a prosecutor, I did countless times, but not when an officer wanted me to. I made it a point not to look at my law enforcement witnesses on the stand. Instead, I looked at the jury.

If an officer was losing his credibility, I couldn't save it. But if the officer was winning his credibility confrontation with the defense attorney, a beautiful thing happened. The jurors or judge looked at me to signal they'd had enough of the defense attorney's badgering this officer with irrelevant questions he'd already answered. Then, I would rise and say, "Your Honor, at this point I have to object - asked and answered (or "cumulative" or "calls for speculation" or "relevance"). And the judge or jury would look at me as if to say, "It's about time you objected."

The look that launches a thousand questions.

When officers want a prosecutor to object, what do they do? They look at her.

Don't ever look at the prosecutor when you're on cross examination. It's fuel for the defense. It goes like this:

Q: Officer, did you just look at the prosecutor?

You've got one answer here - the truth. Anything else and jurors know you're not being honest. If you'll fudge on something like this, who knows what else you might lie about. At least that will be the defense argument.

A: Yes.
Q: Why?

Again, the only answer is the truth, which isn't a winner:

A: Because I wanted her to object.
Q: Why?

Any answer just opens you up for more cross examination.

A: Because this isn't relevant.
Q: Isn't that the judge's call?
Q: But you'd rather decide what's relevant and the jury gets to hear and what they don't get to hear, wouldn't you?
Q: But our system of justice doesn't work that way, does it?
Q: You just wish it would, don't you?
Q: Then why are you signaling the prosecutor to object?
Q: You didn't signal me to object to any of the prosecutor's questions, did you?
Q: That's because you already knew those questions and your answers, correct?
Q: Officer, if you're just here to tell the truth, what do you care what questions I ask?

This questioning is permissible because it arguably goes to the officer's bias and how and what she testified to, or left out.

Even if the defense attorney doesn't ask the officer about looking at the prosecutor, jurors notice it. When surveyed about what behaviors on the stand weaken a witness' credibility, jurors list "looks to attorney for help." [For more behaviors that weaken and enhance witness credibility, see the link below by Trial Behavior Consulting.]

"Objection sustained!"

Mary Louise Gilman, editor of the National Shorthand Reporter, has filled two books with courtroom bloopers. Here's one for which you have every right to expect an objection.
Q: When he went, had you gone and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go, gone also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station?
Opposing Counsel: That question should be taken out and shot.



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