Each side will present an opening argument. The opening is the story of the case – not what you are going to do, but what happened to the people. You have the jurors’ attention for the first five minutes — take advantage of it. Get their attention. Humans make snap judgments, and it is hard to dislodge them. The jurors will filter the facts they later hear into the frame you have created in the opening. We used to believe that the final argument was the most important part of the case, but now psychologists believe it is the opening lines to the opening statement. I will be emphasizing the storytelling method of opening.

I will be looking for the following:

  • Did you tell the story and use the facts to paint a picture? 
  • Did you engage the jury in the story?
  • What were the themes? Themes are short, usually one sentence long, which sum up the case. A typical theme: “This is a case about greed and how far these corporate criminals were willing to go to steal huge amounts of money.” The theme Johnnie Cochran used in the O.J. Simpson summation, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” is instantly recognizable by almost everyone proving how persuasive it was.
  • How did you talk to the jurors? Did you personally engage them in your “conversation?”
  • What was the substantive content? How you handle problems with your proof, or the other side’s claims. Did you use visual aids? How did you describe the witnesses or the client?

Read the following entries from my Black’s Law Blog:

Zimmerman Opening: Recency

Zimmerman: Primacy and Recency

Zimmerman: The Golden Minute

The First Minute (again)

The Goodman Opening

Conrad Murray: The Opening Arguments

Conrad Murray: The Last Minute

Opening Argument (Part 3)

Opening Argument: The First Minute (Part 2)

Opening Argument: The First Minute