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Writing the Trial, part 3

You've probably seen this in quite a few courtroom dramas:

The prosecution starts calling witnesses for cross-examination. The defense attorney sits through their testimonies with a smug expression on his/her/its (*)face, paying just enough attention to say "No questions, your honor" when it's his/her/its turn to grill the witnesses, or ask a few trivial, token questions. Only with the later crop of witnesses does the defense get involved.

I've always thought that this was a tension-building device. "What's that old fox up to?" the audience is expected to think. A seemingly self-destructive tactic early in the game, to set the stage on which the defense gets to display his brilliance later. But now that I'm writing something like that myself, I'm beginning to thing that it may have more to do with the deep structure of this kind of drama.
You can't have a defense without first having an attack. That's obvious. But what the attack is made of isn't always that interesting. The prosecution's case is initially based on obvious, immediate facts. Something has been stolen, someone has been murdered. There are clues pointing to this or that person. Possibly, the facts and the clues are known to the audience, because they've seen the crime happen, or they've seen the original investigation. In short, this part is booooring.
The defense's case-building is round 2. Here, new, less obvious facts are brought into the mix, and the existing facts are spun and re-interpreted. If the prosecution asks some probing questions, we get to see the new facts and the spin re-spun and re-re-interpreted, and that's where things get complicated and interesting.
But round one? Bah. Better get it over with as quickly as possible.

I may be way over-generalising with this, but I'm pretty sure it worked like that in the last courtroom drama I saw (the aforementioned Witness for the Prosecution as well as some others that I saw over the years, and I'm very sure indeed that this is what's making the prosecution's cross-examination so much harder for me to write than the defense's.

(*) I'm pretty sure there is some SF/courtroom fiction in which the defense attorney is an it. If not, it's time someone wrote it.


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