A Deadly Business

A Deadly Business by Lis Wiehl

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Authors: Lis Wiehl
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    “What’s wrong? Is it Brooke or Gabe?” His Rachel was sixteen. Eli knew what it took to raise a teenager on your own.
    “No. It’s not the kids. It’s my, my”—she stumbled over the words—“my husband. There’s a possibility his death wasn’t an accident.”
    “What do you mean?” As soon as he said the words, Eli wished he could call them back. Of course she meant suicide.
    “It’s possible he was murdered.”
    He blinked. “I thought he died in a car accident.”
    “Supposedly the injuries don’t add up. It looks like he was beaten after the accident.”
    “Do you think it’s really possible he was murdered?”
    “I don’t know.” She sighed. Her eyes looked wet, and Eli had to resist the sudden urge to put his arm around her shoulder. “I honestly don’t know.” She looked at her watch. “I guess we should go in.” She turned toward him. “Don’t say anything to anyone, okay?”
    Eli nodded, but that didn’t stop him from wondering. In the classroom, he half listened as Titus began to lecture about cross-examination.
    “The purpose of cross is to corroborate your case.” Titus had a preacher’s cadence. “If you’ve watched too many movies, you might think your goal is to have the witness dramatically break down on the stand and admit his own guilt.” He wagged a finger. “No. Because that will never happen. Instead, you use the cross to tell your story to the jury. You highlight inconsistent statements, suspect motivation, and lack of truthfulness. On the direct, the witness is the star. But on cross-examination, it’s the lawyer.
    “Remember that you control the witness.” He pointed at the students. “You must maintain the upper hand. Keep the cross brisk. Don’t give him time to think. Lead the witness by getting him to agree with you. Then build one fact on top of another, like bricks.And remember to ask short leading questions. Now, I know it’s not easy for a lawyer to ask a short question, but you must.
    “Learn to use your head. No, not by thinking, but by simply moving it up and down.” He demonstrated. “Humans are hardwired to mirror each other, so if you nod, the witness will too. And never get into an argument with the witness. There’s an old saying: ‘Don’t argue with a fool, because the jury may not be able to tell the difference.’ ” Laughter rippled through the students. “Whether you like it or not, the truth is that many times the jury is looking for form, not substance. If you can make a witness backtrack, babble, or even just look confused while you look calm, you’ll have the upper hand.”
    He stepped back. “And now, without further ado, may I present you the case of Bill Jones. Mr. Jones has been charged with attempted murder in the shooting of a grocery store clerk. Both the clerk, John Doe, and a customer, Mary Smith, have positively identified Mr. Jones as the shooter. Mirroring real life, Mr. Hall will play the part of defense counsel, and Ms. Quinn will play the part of prosecutor. The witness they are interviewing will be played by your fellow classmate, Jocelyn Daugherty. And I will be the judge.”
    To a smattering of applause, Titus took the judge’s chair while Eli and Mia sat at their respective tables. The room was designed like a miniature courtroom. Jocelyn took her seat in the witness box. Eli got to his feet. “So, Dr. Daugherty, we met for the first time yesterday?”
    This was actually true, aside from the “Dr.” part. Jocelyn was in Mia’s class, and she and Eli had met to review her testimony.
    “And we’ve talked on the phone, of course?”
    “A few times.”
    If he were Mia, he would bring up how much the witness would be paid for testifying. The best defense was a good offense, so he raised the issue himself. “And, of course, Dr. Daugherty, you expectto receive compensation for the research that I’ve asked you to do and for your time appearing here?”
    She nodded. “I hope

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