A lawyer puts up an expert witness to testify on a technical matter. The opposition leads him through several questions on "cross," and then concludes with, "So it is possible that X could have occurred?" (X being an event that helps the cross examiner's case.) The witness says "yes," and means to say "but that is not likely" when the cross examiner cuts him off.

Can the first lawyer then "redirect" with questions like, "So you say X is possible? How likely do you think this is? Why do you think this is unlikely?" etc.

Under what circumstances "can" this be done? ("Can" in this context has two possible meanings. 1) is "legally admissible or allowable. 2) is legally "advisable.)

  • 1
    Is a judge allowed to bang his gavel?
    – blankip
    Nov 19, 2020 at 3:05
  • 3
    @blankip Is that a euphemism?
    – pipe
    Nov 19, 2020 at 23:52
  • @pipe I think it’s sarcasm (both questions have an obvious answer of “yes”), which is discouraged here. It’s better to give an actual answer, like the one below. Nov 20, 2020 at 5:57

1 Answer 1


This is pretty much the entire purpose of a redirect, and almost always permissible.

If your witness has given an unhelpfully incomplete answer, it is not just "advisable" to ask those follow-up questions, but perhaps mandatory as an ethical matter.

  • When you say "unhelpfully incomplete", that makes it sound like you're talking about situations where the witness is being uncooperative, but the original question was about cases where a witness is trying to answer but gets cut off. Would a reasonable redirect question ever be something to the effect of "Go on..."?
    – supercat
    Nov 19, 2020 at 15:43
  • 2
    I was using "unhelpfully incomplete" to refer to the situation the OP is describing. "Yes" is a truthful answer, but it is incomplete in a way that is unhelpful to the party conducting the redirect.
    – bdb484
    Nov 19, 2020 at 16:49
  • 1
    In cross examination, it's the witness is always hostile, which allows for leading questions , which often take the form of a yes or no binary response. Redirect allows you questions to clarify gaps in these responses. For example, is it true that two people could have the exact same fingerprint? Yes (Reason: While there are more possible prints than people, there is a finite set and it could be that the same fingerprint forms for two people (and there is a specific print that does this). What is this possibility? Next to impossible.
    – hszmv
    Nov 19, 2020 at 17:08
  • 6
    @hszmv: Pedantic: In the real world, given the incompleteness of most fingerprints at crime scenes and the fairly terrible standards for what constitutes a match, one person could easily be matched to another person's fingerprint. We don't even have good studies to prove the uniqueness of fingerprints beyond "we haven't seen an exact duplicate yet in our years of not looking for one", even though the (lack of) standards we use to compare fingerprints could easily classify two people as having the "same" fingerprint. Nov 19, 2020 at 20:50
  • 2
    @ShadowRanger The use of fingerprints for identification is assumed to be cast-iron. However, the underlying assumption of uniqueness is shaky, at least. The criminal justice system protects it because of the millions of convictions that rest on such evidence. This came to a head some years ago in this case: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_McKie Nov 20, 2020 at 9:24

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