Book Review: Cross Examination Handbook by Clark, Dekle, & Bailey
I don't usually make it a point to do book reviews. In fact, this is the first one I've done since a failed attempt at a thesis linking Alexander Dumas and his use of yellow to the depression, confusion, shyness, and fear brought on by his classmates urinating on him from a balcony on his first day of classes. Anyhow, I know both Ron Clark and Bill Bailey personally. I have done work for Ron Clark in the area of pre-trial advocacy. He's a wonderful attorney and professor with great insight honed through years of practice as a prosecutor in King County. Bill a Plaintiff's personal injury guru, having tried a litany of cases and does well for his clients. I trust them both immensely in this area and hope one day to have their knowledge and experience.
Hell, I'm not a modest guy...I hope to surpass them both, and Gerry Spence to boot (with Gerry's help of course).
Anyhow, on to the book.
So I had a huge problem the first time I needed to do a Cross Examination: I'd never done one.
Now, I had a little bit of help prior to my first need for Cross Examination. My boss, Karl, sat me down and had me listen to Pozner and Dodd on cross examination. Its a good book, but a lot of the time, I felt like it was a 300 level course, and I didn't even have the 100 level basics that could help me get the most out of it.
I also had the help of Steve Fury and his cadre of Plaintiff PI and Crim Defense attorneys, who led us through the very basics of cross examination. That amount of help gave you what you would expect, a very base level understanding of one fact per question, stacking, etc. A remedial course? The first two weeks of my 100 level course?
Well, there's a new kid on the block for cross-examination books, and it fills the gap that is out there at the moment. Cross Examination Handbook is essentially the base understanding of current cross-examination techniques, put together in a way that allows someone without even a hint of understanding on the topic (read: me just before my first trial), and gets them into the courtroom and standing on their own.
One of the things you'll like immediately is the real-life examples taken from a myriad of cases. These examples do a great job of highlighting how trial masters can take these techniques and really drive their point home. The other things this book does a great job of is pointing out the difference between a valid point on cross and a weak point on cross. The book largely uses understood terminology, including using a cross-examination to gain concessions from an adverse witness, using it as your time to get out facts you want the jury to hear, trusting the jury with your facts to let them connect the dots, impeachment, etc.
There is one area that does have a little more depth than in Pozner and Dodd. Knowing Bill, I can see where this came from. I haven't had the fun of seeing Ron in a trial (he retired from the prosecutor's office long before I went in to law), but knowing his persona, I can see it equally applicable. What the hell am I talking about? The stage of the courtroom of course. All eyes on you, the control you have to have in the courtroom, the presence that you have to have in order to convey your points in cross to the jury. Some would say a lot of this goes beyond strictly cross-examination, and you're right. I would say a lot of this can transfer to all areas of trial. Don't think so? Ask Josh Karton. He'll tell you the same thing, that this is a theater where you're the star, the director, the producer, and everything else.
So you know what this can offer the new practitioner, I think that's clear. For the seasoned pro, its a great recap of various areas of cross, some you don't necessarily see every day. I can tell you I don't use impeachment with a learned treatise every day, and it helps to have a book that can simply give me a primer. The examples are great for getting the rusty gears moving again.