Questions that articulate the examining attorney’s opinions, rather than seeking a statement or admission from the witness, are objectionable as argumentative. This is a good objection to make when the examining attorney is making an argument of law or application of law that should be argued in a closing statement. Any question which is actually an argument is improper.
- “Please describe who was present with you at the theater on April 14th before the worst tragedy in American history took place.”
- “What did you see the Defendant doing before he murdered the President?”
- “What was the second thing that the most famous murderer of our time told you?”
- “Please describe what the murderer looked like.”
- “The night of April 14th of last year had to be horrifying. Can you please tell us about it?”
(a) Control by the Court; Purposes. The court should exercise reasonable control over the mode and order of examining witnesses and presenting evidence so as to:
(1) make those procedures effective for determining the truth;
(2) avoid wasting time; and
(3) protect witnesses from harassment or undue embarrassment.
(b) Scope of Cross-Examination. Cross-examination should not go beyond the subject matter of the direct examination and matters affecting the witness's credibility. The court may allow inquiry into additional matters as if on direct examination.
(c) Leading Questions. Leading questions should not be used on direct examination except as necessary to develop the witness's testimony. Ordinarily, the court should allow leading questions:
(1) on cross-examination; and
(2) when a party calls a hostile witness, an adverse party, or a witness identified with an adverse party.
Rule 611 deals generally with the scope of a trial judge's authority to exercise reasonable control over the trial proceedings, including the mode of interrogating witnesses and presenting evidence. The rule contemplates flexibility and discretion so that the truth will be ascertained and the interests of the public and the parties promoted. In short, the three main objectives of Rule 611 are to discover the truth in an efficient manner, avoid wasting time, and protect the witnesses from improper examination questions.
Possible Objections under Rule 611: Argumentative, Compound, Narrative, Leading, Mischaracterization, Nonresponsive, Asked & Answered, Vague, Facts not in Evidence
Case Law (Argumentative)
- U.S. v. Abair, 746 F.3d 260 (7th Cir. 2014) (prosecutor asked highly improper compound question with at least twelve distinct factual assertions built into it that was really just an accusatory and argumentative speech)
- Smith v. Estelle, 602 F.2d 694 (5th Cir. 1979) (“[Y]ou're kind of the hatchet man down here for the District Attorney's Office, aren't you?”)
- U.S. v. Micklus, 581 F.2d 612 (7th Cir. 1978) (“It wouldn't bother you any, to come in here and lie from the time you started to the time you stopped, would it?”)
- U.S. v. Briscoe, 839 F. Supp. 36 (D.D.C. 1992) (“Isn't what you told this jury on its face ridiculous?”)