A cross-examination is the act of the opposing party questioning the witness during a trial. Generally, a witness is initially questioned by the party who called them to the stand on direct examination. Afterwards, the opposing party can question the witness on cross-examination, often using targeted or leading questions (note that leading questions are not allowed during direct examination). Cross-examination gives the opposing party an opportunity to point out the weaknesses of a witness’s testimony, like holes in their story or a lack of credibility. However, the attorney conducting the cross-examination may not ask questions outside of scope of the direct examination. In other words, the attorney may not raise issues that go beyond the subject matter of the witness’s initial testimony. After the cross-examination, the party that called the witness to the stand may choose to conduct a redirect examination. For instance, in a trial it could go direct examination, cross-examination, and then redirect examination.
[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]