Collective Wisdom: When to Impeach with an Inconsistent Statement
The recognition of multiple goals of cross-examination is nothing new. Despite early emphasis on cross-examination as being needed to expose “mendacity,” Dean Wigmore viewed cross-examination as the essence of the trial and truth-seeking process in the United States. He viewed it as capable of serving two ends: proving untruths and completing the story by eliciting facts that “remained suppressed or undeveloped” on direct examination, including “the remaining and qualifying circumstances of the subject of testimony, as known to the witness.” Precisely because of the presence of dual objectives, timing is everything. Said differently, assume a witness has information useful to the cross-examiner but also made an averment during direct examination that must be impeached with a clearly contradictory prior inconsistent statement.
A.J. Bellido de Luna, Collective Wisdom: When to Impeach with an Inconsistent Statement 3, Nat’l Inst. for Trial Advoc. ed., 2021.