John Travolta – Civil Action

There are three types of questions that may be asked on cross-examination. The first one—the INTERROGATORY question shouldn’t ever be asked unless you have had decades of experience as a trial lawyer and know exactly what you are doing. Particularly, never ask a Why question. Witness this scene from A Civil Action.

The second type of question that may be asked on cross, is the CLOSE-ENDED type and this is exactly what you want to use on cross because it is your turn to testify, not the witness’s. Here’s an example borrowed from My Cousin Vinny: 

When the two defendants went into store, you were cooking
Grits for breakfast 
How cook your grits 
Not instant grits
Took you twenty minutes to cook grits

The third and final type of cross-examination question is the ACCUSATORY QUESTION. This is used when you have caught the witness in a trap and want to drive home the point. Also, it’s an example of asking a Why question when you know you know the truthful answer or can prove the truth if the witness lies. Watch how it worked in A Few Good Men: