Tuesday, October 11, 2011

List of Objections


Proper reasons for objecting to a question asked of a witness include:

  • Ambiguous, confusing, misleading, vague, unintelligible: the question is not clear and precise enough for the witness to properly answer
  • Arguing the law: counsel is instructing the jury on the law.
  • Argumentative: the question makes an argument rather than asking a question
  • Asked and answered: when the same attorney continues to ask the same question and they have already received an answer. Usually seen after direct, but not always.
  • Asks the jury to prejudge the evidence: the jury cannot promise to vote a certain way, even if certain facts are proved.
  • Asking a question which is not related to an intelligent exercise of a peremptory challenge or challenge for cause: if opposing counsel asks such a question during voir dire.
  • Assumes facts not in evidence: the question assumes something as true for which no evidence has been shown
  • Badgering: counsel is antagonizing the witness in order to provoke a response, either by asking questions without giving the witness an opportunity to answer or by openly mocking the witness.
  • Best evidence rule: requires that the original source of evidence is required if available; for example, rather than asking a witness about the contents of a document, the actual document should be entered into evidence
  • Beyond the scope: A question asked during cross-examination has to be within the scope of direct, and so on.
  • Calls for a conclusion: the question asks for an opinion rather than facts
  • Calls for speculation: the question asks the witness to guess the answer rather than to rely on known facts
  • Compound question: multiple questions asked together
  • Hearsay: the witness does not know the answer personally but heard it from another
  • Incompetent: the witness is not qualified to answer the question
  • Inflammatory: the question is intended to cause prejudice
  • Leading question (Direct examination only): the question suggests the answer to the witness. Leading questions are permitted if the attorney conducting the examination has received permission to treat the witness as a hostile witness. Leading questions are also permitted on cross-examination, as witnesses called by the opposing party are presumed hostile.
  • Narrative: the question asks the witness to relate a story rather than state specific facts
  • Privilege: the witness may be protected by law from answering the question
  • Irrelevant or immaterial: the question is not about the issues in the trial

Proper reasons for objecting to material evidence include:

Proper reasons for objecting to a witness's answer include:

  • Narrative: the witness is relating a story in response to a question that does not call for one
  • Non-responsive: the witness's response constitutes an answer to a question other than the one that was asked, or no answer at all

Example: “Did your mother call?” “Ya. She called at 3:00." Opposing counsel can object to the latter part of this statement, since it answers a question that was not asked. With some concern for annoying the court, counsel will selectively use this to prevent a witness from getting into self-serving answers.

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