Bias cross examination is critical for a successful trial lawyer. By exposing a witness’ bias, a lawyer can discredit the witness and any hurtful testimony that he or she has to offer. Exposing bias also has the benefit of strengthening any favorable testimony that a witness may have for your case.
What is Bias?
Bias preference of one outcome over another, or a party over another. Bias is the reason you are more likely to think that a call against your favorite team is unjustified while a call under the same circumstances against the opposing team is more than warranted. For more on bias see our article on winning when bias is all you have.
Bias Cross Examination
Bias cross examination requires that the trial lawyer expose the witness’s leanings towards one side or against another. Because bias comes in many forms the list of potential bias cross examination questions are limitless. Here we will give some examples of the most common bias cross examination questions.
Witness Is Paid By The Opposing Party
Typically in cases with experts the experts are paid by a side to testify as to a favorable conclusion for that side. By showing that the witness is paid, we can convince the jury that the witness’ opinion is not to be trusted because it was bought by one side. An example bias cross examination of a paid witness goes like this:
Q: Dr. Jones, you were hired by the Plaintiff’s law firm in this case.
Q: The Plaintiff’s law firm paid you for your work in this case.
Q: Paid you $400 per hour.
Q: Before you took the stand here today the Plaintiff’s law firm paid you $20,000 for your work in this case.
Q: As you sit on the stand the Plaintiff’s firm is paying you $500 per hour.
Q: You have been hired by the Plaintiff’s law firm over 100 times in the past.
Q: Over those 100 times the Plaintiff’s law firm has paid you $5,000,000.
Q: The money that the Plaintiff’s law firm has paid you makes up 90% of all your income.
Q: The Plaintiff’s law firm is an important source of income for you.
Witness Is Good Friends With A Party
Another situation that commonly arises in trial is when a witness is a good friend of a party for whom the witness is testifying. In this situation we highlight the witness’s relationship to discredit the witness. An example bias cross examination of this witness could go like this.
Q: You know James.
Q: You’ve known him for 20 years.
Q: You went to elementary school with James.
Q: You went to middle school with James.
Q: You went to high school with James.
Q: You and James are also neighbors.
Q: You were neighbors when you went to elementary school together.
Q: You were neighbors when you went to middle school together.
Q: You were neighbors when you went to high school together.
Q: You’ve been neighbors with James your entire life.
Q: You know James’ father…(mother, son, daughter, repeat as needed)
Q: You and James go to parties together.
Q: You and James go to the movies together.
Q: You and James are friends.
Q: You and James are close friends.
Witness Dislikes Your Client
Many times a witness who dislikes your client will be testifying against him or her. This witness typically will not admit that he or she dislikes your client. It is the trial lawyer’s job to bring out the information that allows the jury to reach that conclusion even if the witness won’t admit it. The following are typical bias cross examination questions in this situation.
Q: You know James.
Q: He is your neighbor.
Q: He parks his car in your driveway.
Q: You’ve told him to move it several times.
Q: But he still does it despite you telling him not to.
Q: He has loud parties every Monday.
Q: The noise keeps you up at night.
Q: You’ve told him to stop with those parties.
Q: But he continues to throw those parties on Mondays.
Q: One day you came home.
Q: You heard noise.
Q: The noise was coming from your room.
Q: It sounded like your wife.
Q: You walked towards the room.
Q: You opened the door.
Q: You saw your wife.
Q: She was in bed.
Q: She was having sex.
Q: With James.
These are but a few samples of how to conduct a bias cross examination. While cross examining on bias it is critical that you concentrate on the facts that will show the jury that the witness is biased. Most witnesses will not admit to being biased. But if done right, a cross examiner can reveal the witness’ true motives.