What is the Difference Between an Opening Statement and a Closing Argument?

March 21, 2017

Even some lawyers mess up the distinction between an opening statement and a closing argument.  If you look closely at the phrasing, it's easy to see that a statement is different than an argument.  In an opening statement, the attorney or self-represented party will make an offer of proof to the judge or jury about what the evidence is going to be.  Good trial attorneys typically tell a story about what happened and what will be supported by the evidence to be presented.  Argument about that evidence, however, is for closing.  

 

In a closing argument, all the evidence will have been presented to the judge or jury and the attorney or self-represented party will summarize it (hopefully artfully) and argue why the evidence supports their theory of the case and the merit of the case.  Some trial experts claim a majority of jurors make up their minds at the end of opening statements, so the importance of both opening and closing should never be discounted.  Closing arguments are a wonderful way to summarize and sway the court or jurors on your case because it is human nature not to remember every detail and take notes on every important piece of evidence.  Trial attorneys may delve into the burden of proof and why it is important - is there reasonable doubt in this criminal case?  Has the other side proved there case by a preponderance of the evidence in certain civil matters?   

 

At The Higgins Law Group and The Law Office of Thomas E. Higgins, both attorneys have significant experience doing these types of statements and arguments in both criminal and domestic matters.  Please contact us for a consultation.

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