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Q: What is a "hostile witness"? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: What is a "hostile witness"?
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: rambler-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 11 Sep 2005 15:44 PDT
Expires: 11 Oct 2005 15:44 PDT
Question ID: 566898
In a courtroom, when the prosecutor asks the judge for permission
to treat the witness as a "hostile witness", what does such permission
allow the prosecutor to do (that he couldn't otherwise)?
Subject: Re: What is a "hostile witness"?
Answered By: justaskscott-ga on 11 Sep 2005 16:40 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello rambler,

As stated in the disclaimer at the bottom of this page, answers and
comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are
not intended to substitute for informed professional legal advice.

The term "hostile witness" appears once in the Federal Rules of Evidence:

"Rule 611. Mode and Order of Interrogation and Presentation 

* * *

(c) Leading questions.?Leading questions should not be used on the
direct examination of a witness except as may be necessary to develop
the witness? testimony.  Ordinarily leading questions should be
permitted on cross-examination.  When a party calls a hostile witness,
an adverse party, or a witness identified with an adverse party,
interrogation may be by leading questions."

"Federal Rules of Evidence" (incorporating the revisions that took
effect Dec. 1, 2003) -- "Rule 611" [Note: I did not find either an
amendment to this rule or another federal rule that mentions a
"hostile witness."  Again, as noted, this is not a professional legal
Legal Information Institute

The notes of the the Senate Committee on the Judiciary to this rule
indicate that "a 'hostile witness'--that is a witness who is hostile
in fact--could be subject to interrogation by leading questions," or,
as stated in a subsequent paragraph, that "leading questions are
permissible in the interrogation of a witness, who is hostile in

"Notes to Rule 611" [under "Notes of Committee on the Judiciary,
Senate Report No. 93-1277"]
Legal Information Institute

So it appears that under the Federal Rules of Evidence, a prosecutor
may ask leading questions in a direct examination of a "hostile
witness," which he could not do on direct examination of a typical
witness for the prosecution.  Individual states' rules may differ.

- justaskscott

Search strategy --

Search terms used on Google:

"federal rules of evidence"
"hostile witness"
"hostile witnesses"
"rule 611"

Request for Answer Clarification by rambler-ga on 11 Sep 2005 17:24 PDT
Can you give me a simple example of a leading question versus an ordinary question?

Clarification of Answer by justaskscott-ga on 11 Sep 2005 21:17 PDT
Here is a definition, including an example, from a law dictionary.

"leading question" -- The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill

Search strategy --

Searched on Google for:

"leading question"
rambler-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: What is a "hostile witness"?
From: myoarin-ga on 11 Sep 2005 17:59 PDT
"leading question
     n : a question phrased in such a way as to suggest the desired
         answer; a lawyer may ask leading questions on

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)"

Often a leading question is one that puts words in the mouth of the witness:
"Is it not true that you told the defendant that the car was your lawful property?
Subject: Re: What is a "hostile witness"?
From: clevegal42-ga on 11 Sep 2005 20:51 PDT
A regular question if you were doing a direct examination would be: 
Could you please tell us what you were doing on the night of August 8,

A leading quesiton (used in cross examination, with a hostile witness,
with a witness that is adverse [if you call the other party, or a
witness that is on the adverse side] and sometimes with children)
would be: You were at the 24 hour diner on the night of August 8,

The goal of a leading question is to get the witness to answer yes to everything.  

A leading question could also be used for a person that "forgets" all
of the events, and they could also be deemed a hostile witness. 
Hostile doesn't always mean "hostile" in the regular sense.

Hope this helps.

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