The next series of articles here will focus on opening statement and closing argument – how to effectively craft and deliver them to a jury. We begin by exploring why opening is so important to trial persuasion.
Opening Statement is a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY. It is a trial lawyer’s chance to communicate counsel’s message in counsel’s own words to the jury.
Opening statement is a golden opportunity for three reasons. First, you can provide them with the story in your own words. Opening statement will aid jurors in organizing and understanding the evidence as it is presented during trial, creating a sketch on the jurors’ mental canvas. Brushstroke by brushstroke, the sketch gains color, and the jury can visualize the picture you want them to see.
Jurors want a story. Our history is a history of storytelling. We pass on our culture with storytelling. Our stories are told online, in plays, in the news, in movies; it’s all storytelling. If you don’t provide a story. opposing counsel’s case narrative may control the jurors’ perception of the case. Alternatively, if opposing counsel does not supply a convincing case narrative, the jurors are likely to concoct their own, and this story may not be in your favor.
Second, opening statement provides a first impression on the jury. For the first time, jurors hear your full message. According to the rule of primacy, an audience is likely to remember what they hear first.
Third, because you deliver the message, you control how it is crafted and presented. During the rest of the trial until closing argument, the evidence will necessarily be presented in fragments, and it will often be introduced out of chronological order. But, throughout your opening, your message should be clear and convincing. In the rest of the trial until closing argument, however, your messengers will be witnesses. Although you have some control over how witnesses impart information, you do not have complete control.