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Opening Statements

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Once a jury is chosen, the trial begins with opening statements. The opening statement sets out the framework of the case that is about to be tried in front of the jury. The attorney for each party gives the jury an overview of their case (or statement of facts), tells about the testimony jurors may hear, describes evidence that may be introduced and discloses any "problems" with her client or the evidence.

An opening statement typically includes some discussion about the other side's view of the case (and how wrong it is) and brings into question the credibility of the opponent's witnesses and evidence. Importantly, during the opening statement, the attorney explains the law to be applied. For instance, in a negligence case, the lawyer may emphasize that if the jury finds that the other party acted unreasonably, then that party must be found negligent.

Are objections permitted during an opening statement?

Yes. Although the attorney is given a lot of leeway during the opening, a comment referring to evidence that is patently irrelevant is subject to objection and could result in a mistrial. For example, in a case that concerns a contract dispute, the lawyer cannot tell the jury the other party has several DUI arrests.