Success in a Jury Trial (Opening Statement)

For opening statement I follow the David Ball model from David Ball on Damages The Essential Update (Second Edition, NITA 2005) which I simplify to fit my style. I speak in the present tense so the story is unfolding now. My body language  stays in the zone of truth meaning my hands stay waist high slightly moving in and out and side to side. ( I stand  in one place unless I move to set an anchor for a fact or point that will be repeated throughout the trial (with the jesture where the anchor is set). My version of the Ball opening follows:

Theme. I go with Ball here and begin by discussing the rule and its consequence. Jurors know they are judges in the case and they want to know the rule right away. They also what to know the consequence for breaking the rule. As Ball teaches I stay simple. “A driver has to watch the road and see what’s there to be seen. When he does not, and as a result hurts another driver, he is responsible for the harm.” I continue to follow Ball-“Now let me tell you the story of what happened in our case.”

Facts. I stick to the facts without conclusions, or speculation. I stay with nouns and verbs avoiding adjectives and adverbs. As professors Strunk and White say there  has not been an adjective or adverb made that can pull a weak noun or verb out of a tight place. I stay calm and collected staying in the zone of truth with my hands. Passion when the hands move up to the chest area is saved for closing. The facts are told from the conduct of defendant first up to his negligence when plaintiff is introduced to the story. After introducing plaintiff as the victim of the negligence I introduce the adversity which we have learned is the injury.

Who We Are Suing and Why. Here I stay with Ball. As he teaches the jury is educated with the facts. Now it is time to tell them who defendant is and why we have brought our case to court.

Defendant’s Arguments. Staying with the Ball model I cover the arguments of defendant. The jury will here these soon during defendant’s opening. I cover them in general and point out we will produce evidence (witnesses and/or documents) that will demonstrate we know the arguments and will prove them wrong.

Harm to Plaintiff. Here I discuss the facts of injuries to plaintiff-the adversity dealt to our hero- and what he is doing to overcome. We know in tragedy the hero will not be able to overcome the adversity. Here I discuss the facts on economic loss, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering and how they exist today.  In doing this I stick to facts-no conclusions, no opinions.

My Job, Your Job. I leave Ball here and flow into explaining my job is to prove a proper personal injury case. I explain how this will happen giving the jury a preview of how the trial will unfold.   This is when I give the amount we will demonstrate the case is worth in cases where I have decided to give the jury the amount before closing. Either way I then cover the jury’s job which is to listen to the evidence so they can provide fairness in their verdict at the end of the trial. I end by telling them the next time we talk we apply the facts to the law to arrive at fairness.  I thank the jurors and sit down.

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  19. […] Try the case at the highest level. In opening tell the jury the story with a straight forward factual narrative beginning with the […]

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