I’ve got a confession? to make.? It’s embarrassing, but one of my guilty pleasure is to watch the reality TV show, Cheaters.
Cheaters is one of those stupid TV shows that hooks you with the human drama and won’t let you go, even though you’re embarrassed to tell your friends that you watched it.
Sure, it’s trash TV, but it’s also watched by nearly 2 million people every week, especially 18-34 year? olds, many of whom will get called to jury duty.? And since a good Austin divorce lawyer will watch what their jurors watch and read what their jurors read, you’ll want to watch a few episodes of the show.? While you’re watching, look for these five cross-examination lessons that you’ll learn from Cheaters:
1. Have a gameplan. Every episode of Cheaters follows a similar formula.? First, the faithful spouse describes the relationship and why they suspect infidelity.? In the second scene, the Cheaters investigators document the infidelity through controlled phone calls to catch the cheater lying, photographing the couple ducking into a cheap hotel room, making use of spy software on their devices to track them (Learn More about those kinds of software here) or even using concealed cameras in the faithful spouse’s bedroom to catch the unfaithful spouse in flagrante delicto (and you thought that the Latin you learned in law school would never be useful!)
In the third scene, the Cheaters host, Joey Greco, shows the proof of infidelity to the faithful spouse, and then asks if he or she would like to confront the cheater.? This is where the show gets good. At this point, they swoop in with 6 or 7 cameras to pounce on the cheater and his mistress.? Joey usually says something snarky, like “Hello, I’m Joey Greco from Cheaters. I don’t need to introduce you to your wife, do I?”? Then all hell breaks loose as the? faithful spouse confronts the cheater.? There’s yelling and screaming, tearful outbursts, and sometimes, the scene descends into mayhem as scorned lovers attack their unfaithful spouses.? This is why millions of people tune in every week — they love to watch the confrontations.
But here’s the secret of why they’re able to successfully duplicate the drama every week: All of those steps are scripted beforehand to get the noisest confrontation possible and ensure some good TV.
The same is true for successful cross-examination.? You can’t successfully cross-examine a witness if your entire plan consists of hoping that you’ll be struck with a flash of brilliant inspiration in the courtroom when you rise to cross-examine the witness.? Your deadliest cross-examinations will be crafted in your office or in the library, long before you ever walk into the courtroom.? Invest the time to craft your cross-examination gameplan before you go to court, and you’ll dramatically improve your chances of success.
2. Have the goods. Cheaters never confronts anyone armed with only a “hunch” or a “bad vibe.”? Instead, they videotape the indiscretions so that there’s visual proof of infidelity.? That way, they have their facts straight before they approach the suspect, eliminating any potential wiggle room? and preventing him from? avoiding the truth.
Before you cross-examine a witness, you need to make sure that you’ve got your facts straight, too.? Depending on the type of case you’re handling, “getting the goods” might mean hiring a? good investigator, visiting the scene to photograph the area, locking someone’s story down in deposition, performing a background check, or it might mean plowing through millions of? pages of documents.? Whatever it takes, you need to have the goods in hand before you attempt to cross-examine.
3. Believe it or not, people sometimes lie.? On the show, whenever a cheating spouse is confronted, they’ll often deny that anything improper is going on.? “That wasn’t me,”? “I didn’t do anything,”? and “She’s just a friend” are all standard denials that you’ll hear on every episode.
(WARNING: Skip this paragraph if you’re prudish — it’s racy!) One of the funniest denials on the show? involved a standard “ambush” scene.? As the cameras rushed up to the suspect’s car, you could see him sitting in the driver seat with his pants unbuckled, while the topless woman in his passenger seat bobbed her head up and down in his lap.? His response, when confronted by his wife?? “This isn’t what it looks like!”
Even when caught in the act, people will still deny any wrongdoing.? If you’ve spent any time in a courtroom, you know that his denial isn’t that uncommon.? Witnesses will evade, deny, and even lie.? Your job is to expose those lies for the jury.? Fortunately, when you’ve got “the goods,” you can confront them with the truth.? But if you want to win, you must ensure that you’ve got your ammunition tabbed and ready to go so that you can find it immediately. It doesn’t do you any good to have a smoking gun document if you can’t find it in the heat of trial.? There are dozens of different systems and software programs out there to help you organize? your case.? Pick one and use it.? It doesn’t matter which system you use, just so long as you’re comfortable with it and can keep the impeachment materials at your fingertips for immediate access.
4.? Stick to your story. Another common tactic that cheating spouses? will employ is to shift the story away from their actions.? As the man buttoned up his pants, he didn’t say, “I’m sorry” or “I’m an idiot.”? Instead, he said something like, “You’re embarrassing everyone – why did you bring all of these cameras instead of confronting me in private?”
When someone has been caught (literally) with their pants down, they won’t want to talk about that. Instead, they’ll try to shift the attention towards another topic, preferably something that either focuses on the accuser’s shortcomings, or shifts blame someplace else.
Wiggling witnesses will try to do the same thing to you.? Unless you can control the cross-examination to maintain focus on the wrongdoing, the witness will attempt to shift blame towards someone or something else.? Don’t let him redirect your cross-examination.? You’ve got to stay on target and avoid distractions.? Don’t let the witness lead you down a rabbit trail? of irrelevant facts, or worse yet, goad you into arguing about the rightness or wrongness of his actions.? You’re never going convince him that he did something wrong, and you’re not going to convince him to change his story.? What you’re trying to do is convince the fact-finder that his story isn’t true.? Instead of debating him or wandering away from your pre-planned topics, stick to cross-examining him about the facts, and you’ll maintain control of your cross.
5.? Know your escape route. Okay, so maybe it didn’t work the time Joey got stabbed. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyACPmeFBRQ), but most of the time, the show ensures everyone’s safety by having a security team present and a van waiting nearby.? If anything goes wrong (and it often does), the security guards can move into place? to stop people from attacking each other, and the host can move the client into the van so they can escape to “Cheaters HQ” or wherever their safe location is hidden.
If your cross-examination goes off the hinges, you’ll need a safe escape, too.? Have three well-scripted, bullet-proof (aka “Objection Proof” and “Wiggle Proof”) questions that will let you end on a high note.? These questions don’t need to be too dramatic, they just need to let you get three quick “Yes’s” in a row so that you finish your examination looking like you’re in charge of the situation.
Sure, it’s trash TV, and yes, it’s probably going to look out of place on your TiVo list next to whatever “intelligent” TV shows you normally watch, but watch a few episodes of Cheaters and you’ll learn more about the human drama than you can learn in any law book, as well as a few valuable lessons about cross-examination.? Enjoy!