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on July 2, 2002
Every once in a while a book is published that has a wide appeal to the general public even though it is written for a specific, professional audience. _The Art of Cross-Examination_ by Francis Wellman is just such a book.
But, this book is not new and today it does not have a very wide readership outside the field of law. Perhaps this is because of a marketing failure on behalf of its publishers or perhaps it is due to a lack of reviewers pointing out the value it offers to a general audience. Whatever the case may be the fact remains that this book _is_ worth reading--by the professional attorney _and_ the average man or woman on the street. The purpose of my review here is to show, in essence, why.
_The Art of Cross-Examination_ teaches its readers how--meaning: by what methods--the truth can best be reached given conflicting stories or observations (whether they result from dishonesty, or from a failure to properly identify the truth).
One of the things readers will learn from this book is how to--and when or when not to--ask the questions that will lead one to the truth, whatever that turns out to be in each case. You will learn the methods and the proper manner of cross-examination and then you'll learn how both of these apply in differing contexts (such as when cross-examining an expert or a perjured witness).
As in all great non-fiction books Wellman presents what is being taught clearly, building in each chapter on what was learned in the previous one. More importantly, the author presents his case for how a proper cross-examination should be conducted by reference to numerous, often-humorous, and always-dramatic instances of successful cross-examinations. It is because of this, that an attorney young in years (if he or she reads this book carefully) may be experienced in knowledge well beyond his actual age. And this, I think, is the major reason why it has--quite properly--become a classic in the field of law.
One example of the type of instances Wellman cites in his book ought to be sufficient to show how instructive _and memorable_ they can be. This particular instance is a humorous case where the author himself is cross-examining the witness. The suit was brought against the Metropolitan Street Railway after two of the company's electric cars collided. I will let the author, in his own words, explain the rest.
"The plaintiff, a laboring man, had been thrown to the street pavement from the platform of the car by the force of the collision, and had dislocated his shoulder. He had testified in his own behalf that he had been permanently injured in so far as he had not been able to follow his usual employment for the reason that he could not raise his arm above a point parallel with his shoulder. Upon examination ... I asked the witness a few sympathetic questions about his sufferings, and upon getting on a friendly basis with him suggested that he be good enough to show the jury the extreme limit to which he could raise his arm since the accident. The plaintiff slowly and with considerable difficulty raised his arm to the parallel of his shoulder. 'Now, using the same arm, show the jury how high you could get it up before the accident,' was the next quiet suggestion; whereupon the witness extended his arm to its full height above his head, amid peals of laughter from the court and jury."
This example is but one of many. What it shows is, not just the value this book has for budding attorneys, but also its appeal to the general public. In many ways it offers the same value as do the numerous stories about dumb criminals that we hear almost daily on radio programs or in the newspapers. Yet, for my own part, this book is decidedly better--for its emphasis is not on the stupidity of common criminals but on the intelligence and skill of heroic lawyers.
_The Art of Cross-Examination_ is thus a book for those who want to see great minds at work (and discover what made their success possible). It is a book that entertains as much as it instructs--and because of this has appeal to those both within and outside of the specific audience for which it was written. In short, if you are intrigued by the drama of the courtroom or seek to one day take an active part in that drama, you will love this book.
(Note: the book, however great, is not without faults--and I do not therefore endorse it unconditionally. The author makes some glaring errors in his descriptions of human nature that I cannot agree with and I do not subscribe to his belief that _absolute_ certainty is impossible to us as humans. These faults--and a few others of less grave consequence--detract from the overall value of the book but they do not mar its value too much. And thus, my enthusiastic recommendation of this book, albeit with this minor note of caution.)
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on July 7, 2000
Back in 1973, when I rose to my hind legs to cross examine my first adverse witness in my first jury trial, I had but one thought on my mind: "What do I do now?" The answer came to me from a little paperback book I had picked up on a whim while I was in law school. Remembering a few of the teachings in that book, I struggled through that cross and several more en route to a favorable jury verdict.
The first two years of my law practice, I read "The Art of Cross Examination" once every three months, and I profited from each re-reading. Wellman gives a wealth of basic practical advice, gives it in an engaging fashion, and illustrates it with entertaining stories. When you read it, you may find some gender references which we "enlightened" moderns would describe as "politically incorrect," but try to remember that the book was written a century ago. Despite the fact that it's beginning to show its age a little, this book is THE classic commentary on cross examination. Nowhere else can you find such good instruction at such a low price. END
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VINE VOICEon September 17, 1998
Twenty years ago as a young lawyer I tried a case with one of my firms partners, who was in his eighties. He let me try the case, and we received a rather just decision from the court. I was quite proud of myself, only to learn from my boss that the senior partner felt that my style of cross examination was ineffective at best.
I determined to learn all I could about effective cross examination. The first book I read was also the last- Wellman's The Art of Cross Examination. Although the book was writen around the turn of the century, it contains a treasure trove of illustraions about different kinds of cross examination. How to Cross Examine the Hostile Witness, the Lying Witness , the scientific Witness, the Truthful Witness (the hardest job of all)
The book is a true today as it was 95 years ago.
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on October 3, 2003
As a trial lawyer and former assistant district attorney, I read this book expecting to learn the nuts and bolts of cross-examination. What a disappointment. The book is obsolete and contains virtually nothing of any use to today's trial lawyer. It's a fun read, and it's interesting to see some of the examinations excerpted, but using this book to learn to cross-examine is probably close to malpractice. There are excellent books and tapes on the topic if you want practical "how to" info. This isn't among them. Still, it's worth reading as a piece of legal history.
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on November 26, 2001
to simplify things, It's the Sun Tsu's "Art of war" for a lawyer.
It was written some 100 years ago, but hey: weren't those the days of the great, classic cross-examinations? besides, the chapter about the cross of experts is especially relevant in our days.
the book helped me understand myself, the wittness and the judge during the trial, and complicated as well as simplified things.
The examples really help you through the tactics described.
The best I've read, and the cheapest I've bought.
Imagine.
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VINE VOICEon April 1, 2006
Francis Wellman first published this book in 1903 and despite the passage of over 100 years, the book is nearly as relevant then as it is today.

There is much to value in this work but, perhaps, the most important contribution is Wellman's recognition that there are different types of lawyers who employ different styles of cross-examination. Wellman, therefore, provides the reader with several examples of lawyers employing different styles of cross-examintion.

In terms of learning the craft of cross-examination, the most valuable chapters deal with the examination of experts and in the examination of the "fallacies of testimony" and the "Silent Cross-Examination."

In reading Wellman's work, the reader must be cognizant of the fact that the book was written in 1903 and, as a result, realize that some of the "practical" advice may be outdated. Even so, there still may be value in that advice.

In the end, the same thing was true in 1903 as it is today - the practice of law is really the art of borrowing and Wellman has provided much for the practitioner to borrow.
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VINE VOICEon June 16, 2007
As soon as they're hired, each of my new associates always recieves this book as a gift.

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand this book, dating from more than a century ago, imparts the kindly sensibilities the practice of law once had (and really, should still have).

On the other hand, this book is masterful in its treatment of the process of cross examining witnesses.

Second in significance only to the selection of a jury, the process of cross examination is key to winning jury trials. This is because admissions tendered by the opposing party can eliminate disputed issues or focus attention on credibility problems.

Though Wellman often goes into great detail in explaining his examples, it's been my experience that new attorneys to the field cannot help but benefit from such complete treatments.

In this way, Wellman leads by example both in relation to his gentility and his prowess.
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on July 22, 1997
This is a book of a famous attorney who lived from the late 1800's to the l940's. His book is a description of his many court appearances and the value of cross-examination to discover truth and fraud. It is a must read for anyone who anticipates being on the witness stand, especially expert witinesses. It has great humor, but more importantly, describes the time proven methods of cross examination to bring out the truth. It demystifies the process and gives a human side to a mostly misunderstood and mistrusted activity. It also shows why cross examination is so very important. As a physician, I have been on witness hot-seats many times in cases brought against others. I would have given most any thing for the knowledge in this book. A must-read for anybody anticipating ever being a witness! --John Ellis, M
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on September 5, 2013
For some reason, this book is considered a classic. In law school, it was assigned reading in our Evidence class, even though it has very little to do with the law of evidence and even though it offers almost no instruction on examining witnesses. It is basically a collection of very old "war stories" from a lawyer practicing in a bygone age. No one does cross-examination this way anymore and I'm not even sure some of the things related would be allowed or advisable in a modern courtroom.

Anyone wanting a real understanding of the best ways to examine witnesses would be advised to get MacCarthy on Cross-Examination (MacCarthy, Terence F.) and Examining Witnesses (Tigar, Michael E.). MacCarthy's book is a very quick read and has a wealth of information that the experienced reader can put into immediate practice in the courtroom.

If you are a law student and your professor made you buy this, consider trying to take your class from someone outside the ivory tower who actually tries cases for a living.

On the other hand, if you're just looking for a little history and old-fashioned stories about how cross-examination was conducted "back in the day," you should buy this book.
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on May 18, 2003
If you are a trial lawyer, or if you find trials and legal dramas interesting, you should read this book. It is definitely among the best law-related books every published, and its quality has not diminished in the almost 100 years since its initial publication. It is simply great to read the cross-examinations by these great trial lawyers.
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