Why is an Opening Statement Important?

Criminal Defense Lawyer

After choosing a jury, the first part of a trial consists of the lawyers for both sides giving what is called an “opening statement.” An opening statement is a summary by the lawyer of what they expect that the evidence presented in the trial will show to the judge or jury hearing the case.

A criminal defense lawyer Grand Rapids, MI trusts believes that trials can be won or lost in opening statement. So, why do they give the opening statement so much importance?

An opening statement, while a summary of the evidence, has the potential to be something that is also quite compelling. It is the first time that the parties in a case will have an opportunity to tell the judge or the jury what happened in this case in the format of a story. Human beings tend to communicate best in story form, and being able to communicate the story of your case in a way that catches the attention of the judge or jury can be very persuasive.

In a civil trial, the Plaintiff will have the opportunity to give their opening statement first. The Plaintiff’s lawyer will tell the judge or jury what the Defendant did to cause harm to the Plaintiff, and why the Plaintiff deserves to be compensated as a result. The Defendant will then take their turn at giving their opening statement, with the defense lawyer describing to the jury their version of what happened, and why they believe that the Defendant is not liable to the Plaintiff for damages.

In a criminal trial, the Prosecutor will be the first lawyer to give the opening statement. They will describe what the government believes that the defendant did, and how they believe the defendant broke the law. The Defense lawyer in a criminal trial is not required to give an opening statement. They can waive their opening statement, or reserve their opening statement for after the prosecutor has presented their evidence. Most lawyers believe that waiving the opening statement or waiting to give the opening statement is not wise. You don’t want the jurors to just begin to learn the defendant’s story after they have already heard the entire theory and evidence from the prosecution. The defense lawyer’s opening statement is an opportunity for them to tell the story front the defendant’s point of view, and to explain why the defendant is not guilty of the crime that is charged.

If the jury is convinced that your story is the right one after opening statement, it can win you the case. All you need to do at that point is deliver on the things during trial that you promised during the opening statement. That’s sometimes easier said that done, but the opening lays the groundwork for the entire trial.

Thanks to our friends and contributors Blanchard Law for more insight into opening statements and criminal defense.