I’ve been coaching mock trial for about 12 years now, and every single year, I find that redirect examinations are the last thing our team has prepared. They’re always overlooked! Kind of like a middle child.
I get it. Your mock trial team has prepared a direct examination and cross-examination for every single witness. Attorneys are sick and tired of preparing questions for witnesses, and witnesses are sick and tired of answering them! The last thing anyone wants to do is prepare another round of questions and answers. If this sounds like you, read this quick guide to have your redirects prepped in no time at all!
You Don’t Always Need a Redirect Examination…
Does each witness really need a redirect exam? Not necessarily! If your witness did great and/or opposing counsel didn’t do any damage with their cross-examination, then a redirect might not be necessary. A mock trial attorney can earn a better score by showing good judgment about when and when not to redirect.
Here’s a quick rule of thumb. You should redirect if any part of the cross-examination:
- Undermined the witness’s credibility; or
- Cast doubt on an important point made by witness; or
- Resulted in the witness’s testimony being unclear or incomplete.
…But When You Do Need a Redirect, It Should be Short and Snappy
Pick just about three points. The more you try to cover, the more difficult it is for your audience to follow.
Was there any testimony during the cross-examination that didn’t sit quite right with you? If so, it’s likely that testimony weakened your case or might make someone disbelieve your witness. These are the points you should focus on in your redirect. The attorney should ask their witness a question (or a few questions) to deal with each of these points. The goal of the redirect is to restore your witness’s credibility or clear things up.
1. Boost Your Witness’s Credibility
Depending on what happened during cross, you may need to restore your witness’s credibility.
a. If Your Witness Was Impeached…
You can’t change the fact that the witness was impeached, but you can potentially minimize its impact. I find that, in the mock trial setting, this is best done by just owning the mistake your witness made. If you need to address your witness’s impeachment, it should be the first thing you do during their redirect.
Your attorney should ask one question to get the witness to re-confirm their “correct” (consistent with the witness statement) testimony. They should not only answer the question correctly, but also briefly elaborate by acknowledging they initially got it wrong when asked about it on cross. They can simply say something like “I was incorrect when I testified ___” or “I didn’t remember things correctly when I was first asked about it during my cross-examination.” Don’t dwell on this. The point is just to acknowledge the witness’s error and move on.
b. If the Cross-Examination Testimony Suggested Your Witness Might Have a Bias…
Use your redirect to explain why the bias doesn’t affect the witness’s testimony or to explain how the witness is fair. Find something in the witness’s statement that is inconsistent with any bias your opponent might suggest.
For example, say that during cross-examination, a defense witness testifies, “The defendant is my best friend. I don’t know what I’d do without him.” This testimony might suggest the witness would lie to protect the defendant. On redirect, you can point out any evidence that the witness has a life of their own and doesn’t always just follow along with the defendant. For example, the witness statement might describe a time when the witness and defendant pursued separate interests. On redirect, your attorney could ask the witness about that. They could also follow with a question that makes your point, something like “It sounds like you’re capable of getting by without the defendant. Is that fair to say?”
Alternatively, if you can do so without having your witness make an unfair extrapolation, consider having your attorney simply ask the witness if they’d lie on the stand.
c. If the Cross-Examination Cast Doubt on Your Witness’s Version of the Facts…
During cross-examination, opposing counsel may have raised doubt by having the witness reveal a potential flaw or limitation to their ability to see or perceive what was happening. For example, say your witness testifies they saw someone doing something at a particular time. They viewed the events from a distance, and on cross-examination, opposing counsel asked questions to have your witness admit the distance from which they viewed the events.
On redirect, the witness can confidently reiterate their perception. This could be as easy as asking them what they saw from where they were standing. The witness can just confidently re-state what they saw. The confidence they display on the stand may alleviate any doubt the judge might have on their ability to see what was happening.
Even better, if there’s a fact that supports your witness’s perception, remind the audience. For example, if your witness saw events from a distance, but there was nothing blocking their view, have them testify on redirect that there was nothing obstructing their view of events. Just be careful not to make any unfair extrapolations!
2. Clarify Your Witness’s Testimony
Maybe opposing counsel objected or for some other reason your witness wasn’t able to give complete, clear testimony on a point raised during cross-examination. Use redirect to clarify.
For example, if this testimony happened on cross:
Q: Isn’t it true that you had argued with the victim two days before he was attacked?
A: Yes, but I didn’t stay mad at him.
Q: Your Honor, I move to strike, as non-responsive, the witness’s testimony after “yes”.
Court: Motion granted.
Follow a script like this on redirect so your witness can give a full explanation:
Q: On cross-examination, you were asked whether you had argued with the victim two days before he was attacked. Do you recall that?
Q: Were you able to complete your answer to that question?
A: No, I wasn’t.
Q: What were you not able to explain?
A: I wasn’t able to explain that although I had argued with the victim, I didn’t stay mad at him. We reached an agreement later that day and were on good terms again.
How to Prepare for Your Redirect
For the most part, you can come up with a loose outline of possible topics for your redirect. You and your team can spot your witness’s weak points. The attorney handling the direct examination of a witness could work with the team member that is cross-examining that same witness. You can also learn from scrimmages and pick up patterns on the points that are raised during the cross-examinations of each witness.
But, you can’t predict when a point will come out unclearly or when your witness won’t be able to give complete testimony. Your attorneys should always be ready to handle unexpected testimony during trial and know how to address them during redirect.
Just like in a direct examination, attorneys conducting a redirect exam can’t lead. This may be difficult to remember right after a cross-examination, which generally consists of only leading questions.
And remember, redirect is not an opportunity for your attorney to ask questions they forgot to ask on direct. They need to stay within the scope of the cross-examination. Attorneys should be ready to explain why each question they ask on redirect is within the scope of cross.
No matter how poorly you or your team thought the cross-examination went, neither the witness nor attorney should look panicked. They should approach redirect confidently and take advantage of the opportunity to fix things that didn’t go so smoothly during cross-examination.
Don’t skip a redirect examination at trial just because you haven’t prepared one! First, it’s usually pretty obvious to your judge that this is the reason you’re skipping redirect. As I hope this guide has shown you, redirects aren’t hard, especially after having prepared directs and crosses. A redirect is a great opportunity to address any issues that might have come up during cross examination. And it lets you have the “last word” with your audience!
PS – I don’t mean to disparage middle kids or parents of middle kids. I don’t actually believe that middle kids are always (or even often) overlooked. I’m using “middle kids” as a figure of speech here, only because I couldn’t find a better way to convey what I wanted!