Trial lawyers are always looking for a quick and understandable way to improve their skills. One of the most difficult aspects of trial work is cross examination. For young lawyers especially, we cannot get enough practice on this procedure. And even when we do have the opportunity to execute a cross examination, we almost always ram through trying to expose the liar on the receiving end (or at least that is what I do). So how do we improve? How do we expand our skill set? Spy the Lie is a simple, effective and proven way to elicit better cross examination responses. The authors, Philip Houston, Michael Floyd and Susan Carnicero, are all ex-CIA interrogators trained in the art of recognizing deception.
This book is an easy read. It will give plenty of tips on what to look for when someone is being deceptive. Deception is the biggest theme of the book. Too often, in my own limited experience, I look to call someone a liar immediately. I jump the gun hoping to quickly expose the liar for what he or she is. I want the court reporter, the defense attorney, the jury, the judge, whoever to know what a fraud the other side is. However, Spy the Lie teaches something more nuanced. This book preaches patience and noticing patterns of responses. You won’t spot the falsehood immediately, but the book will show you how to identify clues of deceptive behavior and then build on those clues to elicit the lie. Those clues include the several types of noncommittal responses, vague responses and run-on responses. Recognizing those responses requires patience. It requires letting the other side speak. I have read this book and gone back and looked at old depositions. I am astounded at how many missed opportunities I had to expose the deception. I strongly encourage any young lawyer to take your most recent deposition of a defendant and compare the responses to the techniques described in this book. It will take all of fifteen minutes and you will benefit immensely the next time you have a defendant deposition.
Throughout the book, the authors use famous examples of suspected or known liars. There is a lengthy interview of Anthony Wiener shortly after his social media debacle. The authors systematically break down his responses in interviews to expose his deceptive behavior. The same is done with O.J. Simpson, Christine O’Donnell , Herman Cain, Jerry Sandusky and others. The authors accurately predicted there would be many more victims of Sandusky’s crimes based upon his evasive and noncommittal responses. Their analyses are frightening, calculated and incredibly accurate. They also provide critiques of interviewers, from Piers Morgan to Bob Costas.
Perhaps most useful in the book is the discussion of questions to avoid. The authors spend considerable time expressing the idea that the way you ask questions and how they are phrased is a very large part in exposing the deceptive behavior. Essentially, poorly asked questions can give a liar plenty of wiggle room. The authors lay out several question types that should be avoided, including negative questions (“You don’t know what happened, do you?”), compound (“When and where did you see this happen?”) and vague (“Do you have any thoughts on this?”). These types of questions, according to the authors, don’t accomplish much and only allow the respondent to muddy the waters.
As new lawyers, we are looking to add quality learning opportunities to our arsenal. I recommend purchasing a copy of the Spy the Lie and placing it in your library for depo prep and post-mortem trial examinations. This is one book whose lessons can be easily implemented with fantastic results.