Cross-Examinations In The Jodi Arias Trial

by Michael Volkov

ariasWith all the attention on the Jodi Arias trial, I think it is worthwhile to identify good and bad trial practices.   I will try to refrain from lengthy criticisms but there are some points to be made.

If anyone thinks the Jodi Arias trial is a sterling example of a criminal trial in our justice system, they are surely mistaken.  Much of the questioning, on both sides, is misguided and improper, with little regard to an overall trial strategy.  As a former prosecutor, my sympathies lie with Juan Martinez, who has had some excellent moments.  The defense, on the other hand, has violated so many basic rules of cross-examination, it is hard to see anything positive.

Let’s go thru some basic rules of cross-examination as applied in the Arias case.

First, cross-examination in most cases must be short, to the point, and completed with authority.  With the exception of a star government witness or a defendant, cross-examination of each witness should last no longer than a few hours.  Days and days of cross-examination are untenable and should be stopped by the trial judge.  Moreover, the questioner is sure to lose the attention of the jury.  A questioner needs to know when to sit down after making his or her points.  No one is Perry Mason and there are very few moments in real life like the Perry Mason trials.

Second, we all have heard the rule that no one should ask a question unless they know the answer.  That is generally true; however, on occasion there are times to ask open-ended questions when any answer will help your case.abc_jodi_arias_jef_130307_ms

Third, cross-examination should never reinforce the direct testimony of a witness.  This rule has been violated over and over by both sides leading to repetitive questioning, and loss of focus.  Such practices give a witness opportunities to reiterate points made on direct and reflect poor cross-examination strategy.

Fourth, cross-examination should be used to “speak” to the jury – meaning, that the questioner does not care about the answer by the witness, but is asking a question which the witness will deny but nonetheless tells the jury what the questioner thinks about the specific point.

Fifth, use the trial judge to help your cross-examination.  Prosecutor Martinez is very effective in using the trial judge to direct a witness to respond to a question rather than providing a non-responsive broad explanation.

arias2Sixth, when you have a witness caught in a misrepresentation or lie – drive the point home.  Prosecutor Martinez had the defense witness LaViolette caught in a misrepresentation – she stated she had testified on behalf of a male defendant in criminal court 1-2 times.  On cross-examination, Martinez effectively got her to admit that she did not testify but only submitted a report.  A great moment!!!  Did he drive the point home?  No, he stopped for some inexplicable reason.  He could have pursued her, questioned other parts of her testimony and repeated her misrepresentation to the jury – she lied in response to a juror question.

Trial strategy requires persistence, a little bit of dramatic flair and knowing how to act in response to specific situations.  Juries can pick up on many trial subtleties – they watch, learn and have a feel for the parties.  Knowing how to cross-examine a witness is a skill which depends on quick thinking and experience.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Michael Volkov, The Volkov Law Group | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Michael Volkov

The Volkov Law Group on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.