What is the difference between direct examination and cross-examination?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of differences between direct examination and cross examination.  Let us look at the two most important differences.

First, direct examination is done with witnesses that are called by the side of the case that is asking the questions.  If, for example, the prosecution in a criminal case calls a witness, the prosecutor will conduct the direct examination of that witness.  After the prosecutor conducts the direct examination, the defense lawyer conducts the cross examination.  That means that cross examination is conducted on witnesses that have first been questioned by the side that called them.

Second, these two have different aims.  The aim of direct examination is to bring out evidence that will help one side with its case.  If the defense in a criminal case, for example, has an alibi for the defendant, it will call witnesses and question them on direct examination to bring out the alibi.  By contrast, cross examination is meant to impeach the testimony that the witness gave on direct examination.  In the example of the alibi, the prosecutor will cross examine to try to bring out ways that the witness’s testimony might be mistaken or simply false.

These are the two main distinctions between these types of examination in a trial.

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