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What Is an Opening Statement?

During a court trial, the attorney of each side, prosecution and defense, is given the opportunity to make a statement or a claim before a piece of evidence or a witness testimony is presented in court. This speech is referred to as an opening statement. During an opening statement, the attorney will enumerate or detail the claims he or she hopes to prove to be true upon the presentation of evidence or testimonies. These statements are not argumentative in nature, but are declarative and descriptive.

Whether in the confines of a civil or criminal court of law, the opening statement is crucial in laying a foundation upon which the judge, jury, and audience can build on with the evidence or testimonies to follow after. The right to give an opening statement is usually taken by lawyers who are representing litigants in the court case. However, if one of the litigants is pro se, referring to a litigant who has chosen no legal representation, then the litigant is given the opportunity to make the opening statement himself or herself.

An opening statement has no standard format that all lawyers follow. Each opening statement can differ depending on the lawyer’s style of litigation, the relevance or significance of the evidence or testimony to be presented, or the nature of the offense committed. In any event, an opening statement is done in an effort to establish a relationship between the lawyer and the judge and jury. It may be done in a narrative manner or in a factual way.

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