How to write an opening statement for a court trial
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An opening statement has the potential to make or break a case. Its purpose is to draw in the jury with compelling wordplay lending credibility to the upcoming testimonies and evidence. This presentation stands as the prelude to the rest of the trial introducing the facts supporting your case.
For many lawyers, developing and writing an opening statement is often a daunting, time consuming task. It's important to prepare carefully in order to successfully prove your case to the jurors.
Review the facts in the case. Because your opening statement is the most important part of a trial, its imperative you thoroughly review the evidence presented in the case in preparation of your opening statement. You should present the introduction of the facts in a way that ultimately supports your stance in the case.
- An opening statement has the potential to make or break a case.
- Its purpose is to draw in the jury with compelling wordplay lending credibility to the upcoming testimonies and evidence.
Create an interesting scene of events. Inform the jurors of the upcoming witnesses and testimonies they will hear. Personalise each witness mentioned while emphasising why and how the evidence proves your case. As a narrative play-by-play of the trial, this portion of the opening statement should leave jurors in anticipation of the testimony.
Personalise your client. The opening statement is a great time to not only introduce your client, but to explain to the jury the type of life she has lived leading her to the events of the trial. Provide the jury with enough personal information about your client in order for them to connect and sympathise with her. Your goal here is to make the jury like and relate to your client. If you are representing a company, you should mention those working within the company in order to provide a human aspect.
- Create an interesting scene of events.
- The opening statement is a great time to not only introduce your client, but to explain to the jury the type of life she has lived leading her to the events of the trial.
Avoid an argumentative opening statement. Your opening should not include your opinions of the opposing party or the evidence. Instead of debating your position in the case or why you think the evidence is unbelievable, arrange the facts in a way that only supports your stance. You will have plenty of opportunity during the trial itself to openly argue your position.
Convince the jurors. Persuade the jury through your presentation of the forthcoming facts without being too obvious. Position the chain of events and evidence in a convincing order in support of your client and her actions. Once you have accomplished all of the above, you will successfully persuade the jury.
- Avoid an argumentative opening statement.
- Persuade the jury through your presentation of the forthcoming facts without being too obvious.
Janique Burke has been freelance writer and editor since 2000, covering everything from finance to entertainment. She has written for "Essence," "Vibe" and "Real Health magazines." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland and is currently working towards a Master of Science in information design and communication at Southern Polytechnic State University.