GOAL IS TO MAP OUT YOUR CASE IN A STORY TELL A STORY FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE DO NOT ARGUE!
EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED IN A STORY FORM IN A WAY THAT IS EASY TO FOLLOW AND INTERESTING USE FUTURE TENSE. "THE EVIDENCE WILL SHOW...“ USE STRONG POWERFUL LANGUAGE. "WE WILL PROVE...." VS. "WE WILL TRY TO...."
TELL WHAT WITNESSES AND EVIDENCE YOU WILL USE TO PROVE YOUR STORY. STATE THAT YOU WILL MEET YOUR BURDEN OF PROOF IF YOU ARE THE PLAINTIFF/PROSECUTION.
Until now, the jury will not have heard anything about your case. So the opening statement is an opportunity to outline the facts as you anticipate they will be presented. The opening statement is not really an opportunity to argue your case, but it is an opportunity for you to begin to convince the jury about the strength of your case, or the strength of your defense.
Good morning, my name is ____ and I represent the State. This is my opportunity to outline the evidence as I anticipate it will be presented. I will call three witnesses. The first witness will be so and so, and he will testify as to such and such. The second witness will be so and so, and he will testify as to such and such. The third witness will be so and so, and he will testify as to such and such. At the conclusion of the case, we will ask you to convict the defendant of the crime as charged, thank you.
Most of the time a defense lawyer does not succeed in convincing a jury of a the defendant’s actual innocence. Usually when a defendant is acquitted (found “not guilty”), the jurors make that decision based on the fact that there was some small measure of doubt in their minds as to the defendant’s guilt. These doubts are what the defense lawyer raises, and there is no better place to begin then in the defense opening statement.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my name is so-and-so and it is my privilege to represent (name of client) in this case before you today. You have heard the prosecutor explain what she hopes will be proven, but the prosecutor did not tell you all the facts.
The prosecutor has explained that my client was “identified” as the bank robber, but in fact this supposed eye-witness is a man that has held a grudge against my client for a long time, and he has made many inconsistent statements about the case. The prosecutor has explained that my client was found the next day with over 50 thousand dollars, but none of those bills’ serial numbers was matched to any bank, and my client had the money due to a recent inheritance.
The prosecutor has stated that my client confessed to the robbery, but this statement was made to the police under coercion, and my client is mentally ill and didn’t know what he was saying. So we would ask you to keep an open mind and listen to ALL the evidence, and return a verdict of “not guilty”. Thank you.
IF YOU ARE THE DEFENSE, MAKE A BIG ISSUE THAT AN INDICTMENT OR ACCUSATION DOES NOT MEAN A PERSON IS GUILTY.
DEFENSE SHOULD MAKE A BIG ISSUE ABOUT THE BIG BURDEN THE PROSECUTION HAS IN A CRIMINAL CASE.
Your closing argument is just that, an argument. You need to convince the jury of the merits of your arguments – not to consider the facts from a neutral point of view.
Remember—from the prosecution’s stand there is no reasonable doubt
You want to remind the jury of what you said in your opening. For example: “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen – thank you for your time and attention to this very important matter here today. As I [or my colleague] stated this morning, the evidence against so-and-so is really overwhelming, and we would ask you to return a verdict of guilty.”
For Example: defendant is charged with aggravated assault Here is how the jury is charged In order for you to convict the defendant of aggravated assault, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 1. That the defendant did cause bodily injury to the victim; and 2. That the defendant acted purposely, knowingly or recklessly in causing bodily injury to the victim. Bodily injury is defined as pain, illness or impairment of the physical condition. The second element that the State must prove is that the defendant acted purposely or knowingly or acted recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life. A person acts purposely if he acts with a specific intent. In other words if he means to do what he does. A person acts knowingly if he is aware that it is practically certain that his behavior will cause a result.
Make a list of your strongest points and emphasize them You should make a point of responding to the prosecutors closing argument. “Now we have just listened to the prosecutor state that the police found fingerprints of my client at the scene of the burglary. However, that is not a very strong point considering that my client had been a guest at the victim’s home on earlier occasions.”
Aside from the above, here are a few arguments you often see defense lawyers bring up: 1. The burden of proof is very high – beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not sufficient to merely suspect that someone did something. 2. The defendant in a court of law has no burden to prove his or her own innocence.
3. The police should have done a more thorough investigation: i.e. talked to more witnesses, looked for DNA evidence, dusted for finger prints in more locations, attempted to locate security cameras. 4. Bias of witnesses – the police, the eye- witnesses, the expert witnesses etc.
5. Describe your client in the best possible light, i.e. argue that he wouldn’t commit the crime as alleged. 6. Remind the mock trial jurors that they must be unanimous to convict your client.