Opening Statement “The Story”
We are all storytellers. We don’t passively see the world, instead we tell stories about what we experience. We will adjust what we have heard and observed to fit our point of views, opinions, beliefs and convictions.
Social pressures play a big part in forming our opinions. We are influenced by other people’s criticisms and judgements especially if they have a position of authority. The words and behavior of others can shape, tweak and revise a better story than what you actually heard. Religious beliefs, family tradition and values, social and community’s beliefs, peer pressure all are brought to the table on how we listen. Your jury panel will be deliberating with the influence of each others’ past experiences and how they view the world and especially your case. Our senses are the key promoters to remembering an event or experience. Attachment to a story leads to a connection.
How you respond to a story has everything to do with your interpretation of what is being said and how it is being presented. We evaluate and interpret our experiences through emotions. Research by a Princeton political scientist, Larry Bartels suggests, “Voters think they are thinking, but what they are really doing is inventing facts or ignoring facts so they can rationalize decisions they have already made.” The story of your case must make sense and sound reasonable. The jury will adjust the facts and reinterpret the evidence to fit their vision.
Speak from convictions, not from conclusions. If you are connected to the facts of your case then the jury will feel the credibility of those facts. Remember there are two sides to every story so tell your side by introducing what the case is about, what happened, how it happened and could it have been prevented. Create the connection between the witnesses and their relationships with the case. Dialog creates the emotions, tension, conflict, pain, anger and the loss that your client has sustained. Build the intrigue to keep the jury’s attention. A great story has the element of anticipation, surprise and the unexpected. The jury takes the role of the observer so give them the map that they can use throughout the trial.
Note: There seems to be a need or habit of telling the opponent’s side of the story in your Opening. Keep in mind that you are giving up “air time” and interrupting your own version in attempt to head off the jury to your opponents lies. What you actually are doing is telegraphing that the facts you are disputing are important and you are afraid they might be believed. There are a number of ways to get your point across without giving the stage back to your opponent.