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Preamble

I'm a scientist, not a lawyer, so please excuse this if it's obvious.

Background

In watching the Chauvin trial, I've noticed that the defence lawyer tends to ask questions by stating the desired answer and then saying "right?". And, sometimes, it seems that he follows a series of things that are easily agreed to, with the question he really wants to have answered in his favour. I notice that witnesses can sometimes be lulled into answering "yes" by the initial questions and then (am I imagining this) being tricked into answering "yes" to the final question in the sequence.

When the prosecution employs a similar pattern, there is usually an objection about leading the witness, and it's usually sustained. But I don't tend to hear such objections when the defence does it.

Question.

Is this a normal pattern? If so, why? I can think of some reasons, e.g. (1) a preference to lean towards defence, so the state does not clobber citizens, (2) a choice of the prosecution not to appear to be bullying, (3) a pattern in this one trial, not reflective of others and (4) my misconception of events.

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    So far, there has only been cross-examination by the defense, right?
    – DJohnM
    Apr 9 at 22:14
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    Also worth mentioning, the questions ending with "right" or "correct" may also not be leading questions depending on their context. A lot of times when a slide is presented, the witness will be asked to confirm the numbers or details of those slides to get them onto the record. That usually results in a lot of boring questions of that sort, but isn't leading or problematic. Apr 10 at 21:43
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This is normal. It only seems imbalanced because only the prosecutor has been able to call witnesses so far.

Under Minnesota Rule of Evidence 611:

Ordinarily leading questions should be permitted on cross-examination. When a party calls a hostile witness, an adverse party, or a witness identified with an adverse party, interrogation may be by leading questions.

At this point, only the prosecution has put on its witnesses, so it hasn't had an opportunity cross examine anyone, and the defense has been able to lead because it has only been able to cross examine.

Were the prosecutor to call the defendant's wife or mother or something like that, he would probably be permitted to use leading questions. And when the defense puts on its case, the roles will reverse: the defense attorneys will have to use open-ended questioning for any witness he calls, and the prosecutor will be able to use leading questions.

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    For the record, this is not peculiar to Minnesota. Most common-law jurisdictions have a similar rule.
    – Kevin
    Apr 10 at 5:43

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