- many lawyers consider this the most crucial part of the trial - After opening statements, a case unfolds in bits and pieces and not necessarily in any organized manner - research shows that many jurors form strong opinions after opening statements and interpret all of the subsequent evidence in light of those initial impressions - prepare an opening statement that virtually cripples the opposition - opening statements give an overview of what you expect to show through the witnesses and other evidence that will be introduced during the trial - Goals of Opening Statements:
1. introduce the case theme to the court and jury
- the opening statement is like a preview or synopsis of what is to follow. - take this opportunity to put an entire story in a compact package so that the jury will be able to get a bird's-eye view and better comprehend and appreciate the issues and the evidence. - a case theme allows jurors to later integrate the evidence into the theme--to make the disjointed evidence make sense
2. attorneys should establish rapport with the court and jury - get jury to identify with your cause
- come across as sincere, honest, understanding, intelligent, dependable, considerate, warm, kind, friendly, and cheerful * do not be ill-mannered, unfriendly, hostile, loud-mouthed, conceited, insincere, unkind, untrustworthy, malicious, or obnoxious. * --do not alienate your jury
- the opening statement itself has an intro, body, and conclusion - it is a statement, not an argument!!! -- do not encourage the jury to reach conclusions from abstracted data - not permitted: Mr. Hare negligently drove at an excessive rate of speed" that is an argument, because the purpose of the trial is for the jury to determine if Mr. Hare was negligent -- the attorney can't draw conclusions! - but you could say: The speedometer read seventy-three miles per hour, and Mr. Hare was traveling in a fifty-miles-per-hour speed zone." or even "Mr. Hare was racing down the road at 73 miles per hour." - opening statements only state "facts."
introduction, parties, scene, instrumentalities, date/time/weather, issue, what happened, basis of liability/nonliability or guilt/nonguilt, anticipating and refuting defenses by plaintiff, damages in civil cases, and conclusion - introduction
- communicate your case theme, your summary of the facts entitling your side to a favorable verdict, and your enthusiam about trying the case - theme is presented during the first minute--typically first sentence: - this is a case about taking chances
- this is a case about a company that refuses to do business the American way - everything that happened here happened because of greed
- revenge. that's what this case is all about
- this is a case about police brutatality
- this is a case about an innocent man wrongly accused
- this is a case about a wrongfully accused man who instead deserves our honor - this case is about taking responsibility for wrongful actions - greed and misfortune leads us here today
- unjust blame of the innocent is why we are here today
- the prosecution's rush to judgment is why were are here, at the detriment of an innocent and loving father--Mr. Jones - Explain the key issues, preview the important testimony:
"Ladies and gentlemen, this lawsuit was filed because the defendant's car was following too closely behind the car of Mary Jane Fox, the plaintiff. The defendant, Mr. Hare, was not paying attention to the traffic ahead of him. As a result, Mary Jane was hit from behind by Mr. Hare. She suffered a broken and separated leg, and she will have this injury for the rest of her life." - key persons are introduced--personalize your client (if the prosecution, personalize the people of the state and the need for societal safety) - introduction of who you represent is humanized so the jury can relate to that entity or person (for the prosecution, it is the people of the state, for the...