Sunday, April 29, 2007
More than 100 people attended the daylong symposium "Cross Examination: The Great Engine?" at the Widener Law Delaware campus on Friday, April 20. The event, sponsored by the law school and its student-run Widener Law Review, included six panel discussions featuring academics, practitioners and judges from around the country who examined the idea of cross-examination as an engine for determining truth.
Widener Law CrimProf Jules Epstein, an expert on mistaken identification, co-chaired the conference with Widener Professor John F. Nivala, director of the school's Advocacy and Technology Institute. Epstein made welcome remarks at the start of the day. "Courts nationally have said cross-examination is the fix-it," he said. "It won't always fix everything, but it is a powerful tool."
The day's topics of discussion included the history of adversary trials and development of cross-examination, cross-examination as art and the future of cross-examination.
Presenter Kimberlianne Podlas, Esq., assistant professor at University of North Carolina in Greensboro, discussed the effects television and the media have had on juries and what jurors expect from cross-examination. "Very few people have walked into a courtroom. Millions have seen one on TV," she said, adding that jurors bring their assumptions, gleaned from "Law and Order" and "CSI," with them to jury duty. In the future legal climate, Podlas said, cross-examination can take on a greater role of storyteller to the jury, as opposed to truth-finder for the case.
"Empirical research shows jurors come up with their verdicts based on stories," she said. [Mark Godsey]