How to Perform an Opening Statement
Conducting a proper opening statement is a vital part of winning your case. Too often, I see lawyers go into the opening and bore the jurors to death with lengthy and irrelevant discussion about their case. Instead, I have found that in order to conduct a compelling opening, you must first believe in your case. If you don't believe in what you are doing, then how can you get 12 strangers to believe in your client's innocence. Next, you need to know your case like the back of your hand. In the above case, I put myself in my client's shoes and could only imagine the horror she suffered at the hands of her abusive boyfriend.
As you can see from the video, I wrote down my "if these walls could talk" theme with some bullet points because I really wanted to project the fear of what happened in the house. However, if you know your case and feel passionate about it, then you never need to read anything because you can tell the jury from your heart what is going on and why your client is innocent. This tactic is in essence what is taught at the Gerry Spence Trial College, and for good reason because it is the only way to conduct an opening statement if you want to win.
Now this case involved a very emotional topic, but many times I try cases which lack that level of emotion. For instance, conducting an opening statement in a drunk driving case is dramatically different than the assault with the intent to do great bodily harm case above. Becaus drunk driving defense involves complex and technical issues, a more scientific opening is appropriate. Watch me perform a drunk driving opening statement here or view my drunk driving defense site for all the information you need to fight your dui case.
Ultimately, I view the opening statement as my opportunity to give my base argument structure. This should not be the first time that the jury is hearing about the argument though, as this should be hammered in during the voire dire. I have found that when you do a compelling opening statement that is organized and direct to your main two or three points, then you can gear your entire cross-examination and direct examination based on your opening. When you have organization, the jurors will notice, understand your argument very well, and will give your client the best chance at a not guilty.