There are many qualities important for a criminal defense attorney to have. First and foremost, you want someone who is honest with you, the court, and opposing counsel. You also want them to have experience: when all that stands between you and hefty fines or jail time is one person, you want to make sure they know what they are doing! Another quality most people look for in a good attorney is someone who is aggressive: a strong defense is the best offense, and you want someone who relentlessly advocates for you.
One trait that often goes overlooked, however, is that you also want your criminal defense attorney to be a skilled cross-examiner. Cross-examination occurs when your attorney gets to interrogate a witness the other side presents against you in court. In most every criminal case, it is a matter of two sides of the same story, and whichever story is more believable is generally the side that will win the trial.
A variety of witnesses can be presented against you in court. This can include the arresting or investigating police officer, an alleged victim, someone who claims to have witnessed the crime you are alleged to have committed, or a so-called “expert witness.” Each of these individuals will be presented by the prosecution as trustworthy, honest, and accurate, and it takes a skilled criminal defense attorney to find holes in their story, challenge their memory, and otherwise prove to the jury that they are not as good of a witness as they might initially seem.
When a witness testifies, they are first called by the party presenting them as a good witness. For example, prosecution will call an arresting or investigating police officer to testify as their witness against you about the circumstances of your arrest. The prosecution will engage in what is known as direct examination, where they ask them non-hostile questions designed to build their case—and, perhaps more importantly, the credibility of the witness. Once the prosecution has finished their line of questioning, it is then the defense counsel’s turn to question that witness through cross-examination.
A defense attorney who is skilled in cross-examination will have picked up on weaknesses and inconsistencies in the witness’ testimony, and will use their observations to cast doubt on the witness’ testimony. They will also have done their homework and will know what questions to ask that will further demonstrate that the witness may not be as credible as they seem. Once a jury decides whether or not they find a witness credible, that determination is rarely disturbed on appeal because of how deferential Arizona courts are to a jury’s fact-finding decision. So, it is incredibly important that the criminal defense attorney you choose to represent you be a skilled cross-examiner.
No matter what you have been charged with, the best decision you can make for yourself is to hire Arizona Lawyers to represent you. Our attorneys are honest, hard-working, smart, and have extensive experience successfully utilizing trial strategies like cross-examination to defend our clients. We have represent clients in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Yuma, Flagstaff, and Glenndale areas, and are ready to give you the representation you deserve. Contact us today.