An opening argument is the first time that the judge and jury will hear your side of the story in a criminal or civil case. The argument is delivered by the attorney of record in the trial. In mock trials, simulated trials held by mock trial teams, the opening argument is an opportunity to introduce the members of the team and to give an overview of your case before the judge and jury. Mock trial opening arguments, unlike opening statements in real trials, usually are subject to time limitations. Prepare an opening argument just as you would any important public speech.
- Skill level:
Introduce yourself and the members of your team. Address the judge and jury using appropriate courtroom language, such as "Your honour, members of the jury, I am [name] and I represent [name of party]. To my [left, right] are my colleagues [name other members.]"
Tell the nature of the case. Write a brief sentence or two regarding the reason for the trial. For example, in a trial for murder, you can state: "My client, [name of client], has been charged with first degree murder in the death of [victim] on [date]. We will present evidence to you that [name of client] could not have committed this crime."
Introduce the argument by outlining the most relevant points of your case. Try to limit your case to three or four points. State your argument firmly by writing: "We will show that the defendant is not guilty of murder because he has an alibi for the night of the murder; our experts will further prove that the defendant's DNA was not found at the scene of the crime; and we will show that the police investigation and subsequent evidence gathering was poorly carried out."
Give details as your argue your points. The details should include the witnesses (expert and lay witnesses) that you will call to the stand and what they will say, as well as the type of evidence that you will offer.
End your argument by thanking the members of the jury and the judge. Restate your main points in a short sentence or two; then thank everyone for their attention.
Tips and warnings
- The proper way to address the judge is, "Your Honor." Jurors can be addressed by stating, "Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury."
- Memorise the statement so that you can look directly at the jury without referring to your text.
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