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Michael HoenigMichael Hoenig ()

My June and July columns offered, respectively, some practical tips on trial preparation and presentation of the defense case. For simplicity, the columns assumed the perspective of defending a major products liability case. Using the same motif, this article discusses practical considerations regarding defense counsel’s opening statement.

Following jury selection, counsel for the plaintiff and defendant are permitted to make opening statements. The general purpose of the opening statement is to inform the jury as to the nature of the case and to outline the proof so that the jurors may intelligently follow the testimony of the witnesses. The opening furnishes a further opportunity for defense counsel to strengthen his rapport with the jury. The various circumstances in a given case will necessarily determine how much should be said. It must be remembered that by the time plaintiff’s opening has been heard, the jury will likely be feeling strongly sympathetic to the injured claimant. In his opening the defense lawyer is telling the jury that there is another side to the story.

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