Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Examination In Chief Definition:

The questioning of your own witness under oath.

Related Terms: Cross Examination, Leading Question, Witness

Also known as:

  • Examination of witnesses-in-chief; and
  • Direct examination.

The questioning of a party's own witness under oath, at trial.

Witnesses are introduced to a trial by their examination-in-chief, which is when they answer questions asked by the lawyer representing the party which called them to the stand.

After their examination-in-chief, the other party’s lawyer can question them too; this is called cross-examination.

In their book on evidence, Justice Alan Bryant and others wrote:

"A party who calls a witness examines that witness in chief. Evidence adduced in examination-in-chief is generally designed to serve one of the following purposes, which are not mutually exclusive: build or support the calling party's case; weaken the opponent's case; strengthen the credibility of the witness; (or) strengthen or weaken the credibility of other witnesses.

"There are constraints on the form of the examination-in-chief, most importantly in the rule against leading questions."


  • Bryant, Alan and others, The Law of Evidence in Canada, 3rd Ed. (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2009), page 1106.

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