The Cross-Examination of Paul Lewandowski

“My love is cross-examination. You need a lawyer to ferret out a witness’ lies? Deconstruct a nonsensical story? Pave the way for a client’s testimony? This is what I do, and I use every legal means at my disposal to do it.”

Paul Lewandowski first discovered his passion for cross-examination when he was articling. A mentor classified lawyers into two distinct categories: “facts” lawyers and “law” lawyers.

“It is only if you cannot command the facts that you need to resort to the law,” maintains the erudite Lewandowski, a disciple of the former. “The only tool a lawyer has to command the facts is cross-examination.”

Lewandowski, though, has twenty years of trial experience. Over that time, he has questioned thousands of witnesses, including forensic pathologists, neuropathologists, psychiatrists, neurosurgeons, computer experts, and psychologists, not to mention civilians.

Paul Lewandowski Professional Corporation is a boutique criminal litigation firm.

While the practice covers various forms of law, sexual assault cases have become, almost organically, an area of focus. These are high-stake situations, often placing defence lawyers in an extremely precarious position. For one, the sheer volume of evidence in these cases, particularly those involving repeat offenders, is daunting.
Lewandowski calls these cases “the epitome of complex litigation.” That said, it’s a challenge Lewandowski and his team meet head-on, often with dramatic results. While every case is unique, and past results are not necessarily indicative of future results, Lewandowski recalls one particular cross-examination where a complainant admitted before the jury that she “may” have made up the allegations. The Crown invited the Judge to dismiss
the charge.

When the resulting “not guilty” verdict was recorded, it was followed, quite unusually, by an exclamation point.

The aforementioned team is comprised of Lewandowski, Gavin Johnston, and Nancy Nunn. Johnston is the in-house resource on warrants and highly technical litigation issues, though he’s accumulating triumphs as a trial lawyer in his own right. Nunn, “the firm whip,” oils the office systems and cuts through red tape. “I need to know that all pistons are firing,” says the driven Lewandowski. “That’s why I have made a point of surrounding myself with highly competent people.”

And technology. Modern criminal defence is a high-tech affair: seized hard drives, cell phones, and other hardware often contain key pieces of evidence. Frustrated with the pace of disclosure on forensic files, high-cost computer experts, and equally expensive analysis technologies, Lewandowski developed software of his own: Sleuth Forensics, a software package that forensically dissects hard drives to produce reports suitable for cross-examination. Its creator elucidates:

“In most cases, you do not need a defence-hired expert to assert something. Rather, you need to be able to deconstruct what the Crown expert is saying. Thus, what was needed was a software tool that organized the meta-data contents of a hard drive in an order that was simple, logical, and could be used not so much as a stand-alone report, but rather to cross-examine their expert. Having programmed since age seven, I set upon building a forensic analysis program designed by a defence lawyer for defence lawyers.”

Photography by Sean Sisk

Sleuth, an intuitive web-based interface written primarily in Python, unpacks all of the SQL databases, grabs the internet and chat histories, and arranges them in an order conducive to cross-examination.

Being both a lawyer and a programmer, it’s a busy life. So, what does Lewandowski do to unwind? The answer, like a critical courtroom revelation, might well surprise you: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. That said, it’s not so out of character. “The parallels between jiu-jitsu and a criminal trial have not gone unnoticed,” says Lewandowski. “You enter the fight with a game plan, but quickly find yourself in situations that have not directly been anticipated. When you’re handling a witness on the stand, no matter how much preparation you have done, the reality is that you will be ‘off script’ within several questions. You become reliant on the years of training and experience that preceded this case. Your wins, your losses all culminate into a series of judgment calls made in real-time.”

In the best lawyerly tradition, Lewandowski rephrases the statement, going so far as to lighten it up: “After hours of dissecting witnesses on the stand, there is no better stress relief than to try and submit your training buddy with your bare hands. It puts tomorrow’s stressors into perspective.”

The grit required to survive on the mats captures the drive by which Lewandowski conducts his business. These days, though, that client base is a matter of personal choice. “At this point in my career,” announces Lewandowski, “I get to select most of my cases. I keep a small roster of clients. It enables me to devote a significant amount of time and resources into each individual case.”

No further questions.

By Dan Lalande

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