Defence counsel must remain vigilant in restricting improper Crown cross-examination of an accused.
An improper Crown cross-examination is toxic to a fair trial because it threatens to compromise the analytical decision-making process. Stated differently, it encourages thought processes in juries and judges that lead to wrongful convictions.
If the accused is convicted, the Crown’s improper cross-examination may be a viable ground of appeal regardless of whether the trial took place before a jury or a judge.
The importance of a prompt objection cannot be overstated. It goes without saying that it is better for a jury or a judge never to hear inadmissible evidence as compared to hearing it and then having to disregard it.
Defence counsel must also be ready to articulate to the Judge why the Crown’s line of questioning is inappropriate.
In the case of a jury trial, Defence counsel should ask the Judge to provide a corrective instruction to the jury. In more egregious cases, Defence counsel may resort to a motion for a mistrial.
Part of being ready to make a timely and articulate objection involves becoming familiar with common instances of Crown conduct that may jeopardize your client’s right to a fair trial.
Subsequent posts will discuss specific examples of when forceful Crown advocacy veers into impropriety.