Parties to a lawsuit are entitled to call witnesses to testify. Witnesses are sworn to tell the truth.
The attorney who calls a witness will ask questions designed to bring out answers, which support the facts his/her side is trying to prove. This is called direct examination.
Adverse or Hostile Witness
Sometimes the attorney may call the opposing party, or someone connected with the other side. Such a witness is called an adverse witness or hostile witness.
The attorney is permitted to cross-examine an adverse witness, just as if the other side had called that witness.
Cross-examination is questioning of a witness by the attorney for the other side, after direct examination is completed. Its purpose is to bring out additional information about the witness' testimony, or reliability, which may affect the juror's impressions or understanding of, or reliance on, what the witness testified to on direct examination.
When cross-examination is completed, the attorney who called the witness may ask further questions to clarify points raised in cross-examination. This is called redirect examination.
Rules of Conduct
Questioning of witnesses is conducted under rules designed to insure fairness to the parties. For instance, a witness generally may testify about things he/she knows first hand. This is called personal knowledge. The witness is generally not permitted to say what someone else said happened, (the "hearsay" rule), because the witness doesn't know firsthand what happened, only what he or she was told.
During the examination of a witness, an attorney may object if the attorney for the other side asks a question he or she thinks is improper under the rules. If the judge agrees that the question was improper, the judge will sustain the objection, and the witness is not permitted to answer. If the judge considers the question a proper one, he or she will overrule the objection and permit the witness to answer.
A witness must answer a proper question, and is permitted to answer that question only. If the witness goes beyond a direct answer to the question, the attorney asking the question may object. The judge may direct the jury to disregard an improper statement by a witness. When this happens, you must exclude that particular testimony from your consideration in the case.
Paying Close Attention
You should pay close attention to each witness. Remember that you will be deciding the case on the basis of what you hear and see in the courtroom. If there is conflict between the testimony of different witnesses, you may have to decide which to believe.
If at any time you do not hear a question or an answer clearly do not hesitate to interrupt and tell the judge that you did not hear.