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HOW TO WRITE A PROSECUTION OPENING STATEMENT FOR MOCK TRIAL

Here is a template and suggestions for writing a prosecution opening:

THE INTRODUCTION

Good afternoon, my name is so-and-so, and it is my pleasure to represent the State of Columbus and to serve as a prosecutor on this very important case. On June 14th, 2018, the defendant in this matter [describe in detail what he or she is alleged to have done]. [You may choose to point to the accused at this time [and other times of the trial] for dramatic effect.] At the conclusion of the case, and after you have heard all the evidence, we are confident that you will return a verdict of guilty.

THE THEME:

Ladies and gentlemen, this case is about… [a man who cannot control his anger] or [a woman whose own greed got the better of her] or [an individual who is feigning insanity because he was caught red-handed and has no other possible defense.] Try to summarize your case and your position in a sentence or two. It is difficult to think about themes in the abstract. When you see court cases on the TV news or on Law and Order think about the themes of those cases.

SUMMARIZE EACH WITNESS:

Examples:

Members of the jury, the State will call three different witnesses in this trial. We will call Detective Smith who will testify that he was on duty in Jefferson County on the night of the murder, and he witnessed the defendant’s car fleeing the scene at high speed. While we will admit the detective did not see who was in the car, the prosecution will be calling the victim’s neighbor to the stand, and the neighbor will explain that she clearly saw the defendant flee the crime scene with a weapon still in his hand. Lastly we will call a very experienced psychiatrist who will testify that he did a thorough mental health evaluation of the defendant in this matter. The psychiatrist will testify that the accused as sane at the time of the killing, and suffered from no medically recognized psychological defect.

or

Members of the jury, the State will call three witnesses to the stand. The first witness will be Mr. Hernandez who will testify that he was at his place of work at 7-11 when the defendant attacked at the check-out counter and did so without provocation. We will call the emergency room doctor who will testify that Mr. Hernandez sustained a broken nose and an orbital fracture. Lastly, the prosecution will call the defendant’s girlfriend to the stand who will testify that the defendant boasted about robbing Mr. Hernandez when he returned home late that night.

[These samples I have provided are obviously quite brief. You will want to provide a lot more details. Studies show that many jurors are likely to make up their mind about a case after simply hearing the opening statement. After a person has made up their mind, it can be hard to change their opinion. You will want to highlight all the important evidence you have. But keep in mind the time limits that your mock trial competition sets. Work with your teammates in this respect.]

Anticipate the defense theories:

[As a prosecutor, you will give your opening statement first. So a good opening statement anticipates the points that the defense attorney will make in their opening statement. For example, if the defense is claiming self-defense, point out that self defnse does not apply because the defendant provoked the fight, or the defendant is much larger than the victim. For example an example of an attempt to anticipate defenses is below.]

Members of the jury, the defense may claim that the defendant acted in self-defense. However, the impartial witnesses who saw the incident all testified that it was the defendant who approached the victim and threatened him with a knife.

or

The defendant has claimed to be temporarily insane at the time of the incident. However, we will establish that defendant has been planning the confrontation for over a week.

CONCLUSION:

After you have heard all the evidence, we would ask that you find the defendant guilty as charged on all counts. Thank you.\

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