The World of Law: A Treasury of Great Writing about and in the Law, Short Stories, Plays, Essays, Accounts, Letters, Opinions, Pleas, Transcripts of Testimony; from Biblical Times to the Present - Vol. 2

By Ephraim London | Go to book overview

Sir Charles Russell


CROSS-EXAMINATION OF PIGOTT BEFORE THE PARNELL COMMISSION
from Wellman's The Art of Cross-Examination

Probably one of the most dramatic and successful of the more celebrated cross-examinations in the history of the English courts is Sir Charles Russell's cross-examination of Pigott, the chief witness in the investigation growing out of the attack upon Charles S. Parnell and sixty-five Irish members of Parliament, by name, for belonging to a lawless and even murderous organization, whose aim was the overthrow of English rule. . . .

The case is an admirable illustration of the importance of so using a damaging letter that a dishonest witness cannot escape its effect by ready and ingenious explanations, when given an opportunity, as is often done by an unskilful cross-examiner. The cross-examination of Pigott shows that Sir Charles Russell thoroughly understood this branch of the art, for he read to Pigott only a portion of his damaging letter, and then mercilessly impaled him upon the sharp points of his questions before dragging him forward in a bleeding condition to face other portions of his letter, and repeated the process until Pigott was cut to pieces.

The principal charge against Parnell, and the only one that interests us in the cross-examination of the witness Pigott, was the writing of a letter by Parnell which the Times claimed to have obtained and published in facsimile, in which he excused the murderer of Lord Frederick Cavendish, Chief Secretary for Ireland, and of Mr. Burke, Under Secretary, in Phoenix Park, Dublin, on May 6, 1882. One particular sentence

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