Article VI. Witnesses

Rule 611. Mode and Order of Interrogation and Presentation

(a) Control by Court – The court shall exercise appropriate control over the presentation of evidence and conduct of the trial when necessary to avoid abuse by counsel. 

(b) Scope of Cross-Examination – A witness may be cross-examined on any matter relevant to any issue in the case, including credibility, except as provided in paragraph (c)(2) of this rule. 

(c) Leading Questions 

(1) Leading questions should not be used on the direct examination of a witness except as may be necessary to develop the witness’s testimony. Leading questions should be permitted on cross-examination.

(2) When a party calls a hostile witness, an adverse party (or an officer, director, or managing agent of a public or private corporation or of a partnership, association, or individual proprietorship which is an adverse party), or a witness identified with an adverse party, interrogation may be by leading questions. The scope of cross-examination under this paragraph shall be limited to the subject matter of direct examination, and cross-examination may be by leading questions.

[As amended by order filed December 21, 2010, effective July 1, 2011.] 

Advisory Commission Comments

Part (a) recognizes the inherent power of a court to control trial conduct to prevent lawyers from abusing the process.

Part (b) retains the English rule permitting wide-open scope of cross-examination historically favored in Tennessee. Sands v. Southern Railway Co., 108 Tenn. 1, 64 S.W. 478 (1901), is the leading case.

Part (c) attempts to resolve leading question problems. Generally a lawyer may lead on cross but not on direct.

Advisory Commission Comments [2011]

Amended Rule 611 allows a lawyer to ask leading questions when calling a “witness identified with an adverse party” in all civil and criminal proceedings.

Advisory Commission Comments [2017]

Nothing in these rules prohibits the court in its inherent authority from permitting a suitable animal, toy, or support person to accompany a witness who is shown to be at risk for being unable to communicate effectively without the aid of such comfort. See State v. Juan Jose Reyes, No. M2015-00504-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 3090904 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 24, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 23, 2016).


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