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CROSS-EXAMINATION

Once the discoverability of information has been determined, rules determine how to ensure the validity of the information. These include the form and necessary certifications of government documents, the acceptability of photocopies versus original copies, and, most important, whether the opposing counsel has proper opportunity to cross-examine the information.

Cross-examination is the process of elucidating the truth through the examination of the contested information by adversary attorneys. The best example of cross-examination is the examination of witnesses. Each attorney questions the witness in turn, and each is allowed to requestion the witness on matters brought out by subsequent questioners. This may take a few minutes or several weeks, depending on the complexity of the testimony. In theory this relentless questioning eventually flushes out the truth. This theory, however, is predicated on the assumption that the adversaries are sufficiently well versed in the technicalities of the witness's testimony as to recognize the truth when it makes an appearance. In practice, cross-examination of witnesses frequently illuminates little more than the relative acting skills of the examining attorneys and the witness.

Documents are also subject to cross-examination under the hearsay rule so familiar to everyone who has read a detective novel or watched a courtroom drama. Few other concepts in law arise so often and yet are so inadequately understood as the concept of hearsay. The hearsay rule is important in the medical setting because the admissibility of the medical record into the court as evidence is governed by the hearsay rule. A basic understanding of this rule is necessary to an understanding of the legal significance of medical record-keeping protocols.



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