Kaitlyn’s Mock Trial Tip of the Day
Time to talk about delivering statements. Two of the three lawyers on each side will have to deliver a statement, which is basically a five or nine minute speech that tells the whole story of your case. An opening statement is given at the beginning of the trial, and sets forth all the evidence you hope to prove by the end of the trial. A closing statement is delivered after all witnesses have been called and you need to convince the jury that your side is right. It’s a lot more argumentative.
To begin crafting either an opening or a closing, you must first have established a case theory with your team members. Without an idea of the evidence you wish to bring out, it’s going to be really difficult to write a speech about that lack of evidence. So set up your case plan beforehand. You also want to collaborate a lot with your team members, especially the other lawyer giving a statement. The opening and closing should be closely related, especially when it comes to key phrases. You want the jury to remember your catch phrase from the opening when it comes up in the closing. It makes your case seem more cohesive and comprehensive, no matter how terrible the information might have been in the middle. You should thus try to draft your statement with your co-counsel, so similarities in phrasing and organization occur.
The next step is simply to outline every piece of evidence that you feel is relevant and beneficial to your case. Not all of this information will be used in your statement, but it’s nice to have a list to pick and choose from. When you have a list together, you should start writing a first draft.
When you’re writing a draft, there are important things to remember about each statement that should influence your tone, wording, and content.
Content: Only use information that will come from your witnesses. Never use information you expect to come from cross examination. The opening, more so than the closing, tells a story. Make sure you explain why you are all in court today, so that the jury knows basics of the trial. An opening is only 5 minutes long, max, so choose carefully the information you wish to include.
Wording: Always use phrases such as “The evidence/We will show…” or “You’ll hear from…”, and other non-argumentative statements. You need to tell the jury what they should expect to hear, but you can’t draw any conclusions about that evidence in opening statements. Instead, set forth your plan for the trial, explaining how you plan to let the story unfold.
Tone/Delivery: The opening should be very evenly and coolly delivered. You should sound professional, knowledgeable, but fairly unbiased. A little bit of righteous anger is permitted, but the important thing is to impress the jury with your crafting of the story, rather than the delivery. The main emotion, if any, that you should use to govern your speech patterns is of mild sympathy, for the jury that was dragged to court, for both parties, and for whatever victim is involved.
Content: A closing covers all of the evidence that actually came up in trial. The basic story has been told, at this point, at least four times, by the two openings and two lead witnesses from each side. Therefore, the story is much less important. You want to make sure that you bring up the most important positive points from your side, and the negtaive aspects of your opponent’s side (like unexplained alibis, lying witnesses, anything that made them look bad during the questioning phase. You can also twist your opponent’s theme at this point. A closing can be up to 9 minutes long, so you can fit more content in than an opening.
Wording: Closings are usually makrked by a heavy amount of “I submit…” or “The evidence has shown…”. You want to enforce the idea that your side proved very conclusively that your side of the story is correct, no matter what opposing counsel claims. It’s important to choose all wording very carefully in a closing for the most full impact; a sentence like “Joey Davis was *poisoned* by the HappyLand Toy Company” has a lot more impact than “Joey Davis died from eating HappyLand’s product”. Choose sentence structures for impact, and make sure everything you say in closing is easily understandable, even colloquial. You want the jury on your side, and talking like a person rather than a lawyer is the way to do that.
Tone/Delivery: A closing is intended to be very emotionally laced, very persuasive. As a defense closer, you want to portray your client as an innocent (wo)man being persecuted by the proseuction/plaintiff for a crime (s)he would never commit, and as prosecution or plaintiff, you want the jury to understand the pain and devastation the defendant caused your client. You have to be passionate in a closing, but still clear. You don’t want to be overwhelmed, you want to show the jury that you care.
After you’ve written your first draft, it’s time to deliver and revise. You should always be prepared to handle constructive criticism. It’s often hard to notice spots that aren’t working for the statement, or are difficult to understand when you are the author of the statement. It’s thus incredibly important that you practice in front of your team after each revision, so they can offer tips and suggestions that could improve the statement as a whole. Keep in mind that differences may arise, and you are allowed to keep things the way they were. Don’t feel compelled to take every suggestion, but use your objective judgement when it comes to making suggested changes. You have to be comfortable with your statement, more so than anyone else (except, perhaps, the jury).