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Opening Statements

Opening Statements. Why is the opening statement important?. First time judge & jury see the attorney Good first impressions are important Provide judge & jury with a “roadmap”. (1) Case Theory & Theme. Your side’s version of “what really happened” Logical

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Opening Statements

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Presentation Transcript

  1. Opening Statements

  2. Why is the opening statement important? • First time judge & jury see the attorney • Good first impressions are important • Provide judge & jury with a “roadmap”

  3. (1) Case Theory & Theme Your side’s version of “what really happened” • Logical • Fit the legal requirements of the claims or defenses • Be simple to understand • Be consistent with the jurors’ common sense and their perception of how real life works

  4. Theme • Memorable word or phrase that summarizes your theory • Emotionally compelling • Incorporate jurors sense of fairness and universal truths • Simple • Focus on people, not issues • Should translate “legalese” into simple, compelling, human propositions that are consistent with the attitudes jurors already hold about people, events, and life in general.

  5. Theme: Examples Libel/Slander case: • Defense: Lukas Reiter was caught red-handed, and now he wants someone else to pay for his affair. • Plaintiff: Richard McKyton made a jealous jump to conclusions. Murder/Self Defense case: • Defense 1: With her back up against the wall and her roommate threatening to kill her, Ms. Hughes had run out of options. • Prosecution 1: Pat Hughes took the law into her own hands. • Defense 2: Facing death, Sarah Baker did what all living things are instinctively programmed to do…she defended herself. Counterfeit case – missing “other suspect”: • Defense: Reggie Jefferson had the perfect cover: A trusting roommate with the same initials. Negligence: • Defense: It is every driver’s worst nightmare. A small child darts into the road.

  6. Opening Statements:What to Do? Tell a story. • Focus on the people, not the problem. • Who are the important players? Personalize your party. • Make the story vivid. • Re-create the incident. Make it emotional and dramatic KEEP IT SIMPLE. Be logical and concise. • Walk the jurors through the events in chronological order. Anticipate the other side’s weaknesses

  7. What NOT to do? • Don’t overstate the evidence • Don’t include your personal opinions • Don’t argue - at least not in an obvious way 

  8. “By the Book” Outline • Introduction • Parties – introduce essential people • Scene – paint a picture for the jury • Issue – what is the main issue? • What happened – get the jury to believe your side of the story • Basis of guilt/non-guilt – why your side should win • Anticipating and refuting the other side • Conclusion - Simply and directlytell jury that facts of the case will support his/her side, and ask for a verdict.

  9. In Normal People Terms… • Attention Getter – quick summary of theme/theory that draws jurors in • Introduction – who are you and who do you represent? • The Story Paint the scenes and introduce the players as they come up • Short close – return to/restate your theme • Charge the jury – tell them what you’re going to ask them to find

  10. Video Clip • A Few Good Men with Tom Cruise • 1:06:10 to 1:08:45

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