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What is the meaning of ‘objection compound’? Depp-Heard case continues

Bruno Cooke April 25, 2022
objection compound meaning
Photo by STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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Johnny Depp took the stand for a fourth day today (Monday, 25 April 2022) to continue being cross-examined by Amber Heard’s attorney, Benjamin Rottenborn. Some phrases that have stuck out for some people are “Objection, compound”, “Objection sustained”, and “Objection, hearsay” – what are their meanings in the context of Johnny Depp’s lawsuit against former wife Amber Heard?

What are the different types of objections lawyers can use during witness’ depositions?

There are many kinds of objections lawyers can make during a witness’ deposition. 

An objection is simply a formal protest. When an attorney says “Objection” it indicates they want the judge to disallow a particular part of the testimony. 

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Photo by STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Florida Bar’s website categorises objections in the following way: proper objections (eg, “objection, leading”, “objection, compound”, “objection, asked and answered”); borderline or situational objections (“objection, vague”, “objection, calls for speculation”); and improper objections (“objection, relevance”).

Cornell Law School adds some common objections include: irrelevant; violation of the best evidence rule; violation of the parol evidence rule; and, as above, “asked and answered”.

So what does a “compound objection” mean, specifically?

What is the meaning of ‘Objection, compound’ in the context of Johnny Depp’s deposition?

If an attorney asks a witness multiple questions at once, according to the Florida Bar’s summary of a “compound” objection, “it is proper to object that the question is compound”.

Such questions, it continues, can be “ambiguous and confusing” for witnesses. As a result, courts “generally sustain these objections” if the problem is “not corrected during the deposition by the questioning attorney after an objection has been made”.

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For more on deposition questioning, objections and procedure, read guideline 6 of the Maryland Code and Court Rules.

Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute defines a “compound question” as “a singularly phrased inquiry that entails multiple component questions within its framework”. In other words, it’s a single question with many answers. This might confuse, distract or overwhelm a witness undergoing deposition.

‘Objection sustained’ and ‘objection hearsay’ meanings explained

What is the Hearsay Rule? Indiana Law School’s introduction to it defines hearsay, in the context of a court case, as “a statement that was made outside of the courtroom, which asserts facts and is now offered in court to prove the truth of the facts asserted”.

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The meaning of “Objection, hearsay” is therefore that the objecting attorney believes the witness’ statements are based on statements made outside the courtroom. Read more on lawyer Gerald Oginski’s website.

If a judge sustains an objection, that means they agree with the objection. They disallow the question, testimony or evidence. The alternative is the judge overrules the objection. That means they disagree with the objection. In these instances, the deposition can continue as before.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.