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Opening Statements
Theory
Your side’s version of “what really happened”LogicalFit the legal requirements of the claims or defensesBe simple to understandBe consistent with the jurors’ common sense and their perception of how real life works
Theme
Memorable word or phrase that summarizes your theoryEmotionally compellingIncorporate jurors sense of fairness and universal truthsSimpleFocus on people, not issuesShould translate “legalese” into simple, compelling, human propositions that are consistent with the attitudes jurors already hold about people, events, and life in general.
Theme: Examples
Libel/Slander case:Defense: LukasReiter wascaughtred-handed, and now he wants someone else to pay for his affair.Plaintiff: RichardMcKytonmade ajealous 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 hadrun out of options.Prosecution 1: Pat Hughestook the law into her own hands.Defense 2: Facing death, Sarah Baker didwhat all living things are instinctively programmed to do…she defended herself.Counterfeit case – missing “other suspect”:Defense: Reggie Jefferson hadthe perfect cover: A trusting roommate with the same initials.Negligence:Defense: It isevery driver’s worst nightmare. A small child darts into the road.
What to Do?
Tell a storyFocus on the people, not the problem.Who are the important players?Personalize your partyMake the storyvivid.Re-create the incident.Make it emotional and dramaticKEEP IT SIMPLE.KEEP IT SIMPLE.KEEP IT SIMPLE.Be Logical and concise.Walk the jurors through the events in chronological order.Anticipate the other side’s weaknesses
What NOT to do?
Don’t overstate the evidenceDon’t include your personal opinionsDon’t argue -at least not in an obvious way
“By the Book” Outline
IntroductionParties – introduce essential peopleScene – paint a picture for the juryIssue – what is the main issue?What happened – get the jury to believe your side of the storyBasis of guilt/non-guilt – why your side should winAnticipating and refuting the other sideConclusion - Simply and directlytell jury that facts of the case will support his/her side, and ask for a verdict.
My Standard Outline
Grabber beginning – quick summary of theme/theory that draws jurors inIntroduction – who are you and who do you represent? (or do this first)Facts/Witnesses –Tell the storyPaint the scenes and introduce the players as they come upShort close – return to/restate your themeCharge the jury – tell them what you’re going to ask them to find

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