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The Art of the Trial: Direct Examination

Hueston Hennigan’s “Art of the Trial” series in the Los Angeles Daily Journal authored by the firm’s partners, continues with a new installment by Moez Kaba. In his column “Art of the Trial: Direct Examination”, Mr. Kaba shares his tips on managing recalcitrant witnesses, translating the technical language of experts, and connecting with a jury — while having fun.

By Moez Kaba

Trial attorneys are storytellers. We win or lose based on our ability to weave key facts together into a persuasive narrative for the factfinder. That story, bolstered by evidence and delivered in a compelling way, convinces a jury to agree with our client. Although a rousing opening statement and forceful closing argument bookmark a case, what counts most is the narrative we craft throughout the trial, chapter by chapter, through the direct e examination of witnesses.

The Harmony of Witness Selection

My strategy for direct examination begins long before the witness takes the stand. My witnesses are my client’s surrogates, charged first and foremost with telling the truth, and I choose them with care. Whenever possible, I identify trial witnesses before discovery begins and with with my witness through depositions and thereafter.

Every piece of evidence I need for my closing comes from direct examination, so each witness has to have a purpose and the jury needs to understand it. I never want a jury to think, after my direct examination, “What was that about?” or “Why did I have to listen to that person testify?”

To that end, my witnesses have to have two qualities: Te first is an ability to “write” a chapter in my client’s case that is begin revealed to the jury. The second quality is a bit more elusive. It’s chemistry. What makes a particular witness uniquely suited to tell the story? What are their strengths and weaknesses as a storyteller? Can he or she connect with a jury?  Sometimes it’s readily apparent. but not always.

The full column is  here.

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