The purpose of this paper is to canvas some of the substantive legal principles that govern what is permissible in opening statements and to offer some thoughts on how to prepare and structure an opening statement. Opening statements before a judge differ significantly from opening statements made to a jury.
For what should be obvious reasons the case law concerning opening statements is concerned almost exclusively with jury trials. Much of the advocacy literature on opening statements also focuses on plaintiffs and jury trials. Nevertheless, many of the considerations apply equally to openings by defence counsel and openings made before a judge alone. Where there are differences I have tried to highlight them.
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This article is intended to be an overview of the law and is for informational purposes only. Readers are cautioned that this article does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied on as such. Rather, readers should obtain specific legal advice in relation to the issues they are facing.