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Prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys would do well to consider how civil trial lawyers fashion their opening statements. As with any other part of the trial, the primary question to be answered in constructing an opening statement is: What do I want to accomplish? In civil cases the answer is almost always that each lawyer wants to persuade the jurors that the lawyer's version of the dispute is more likely to be correct than the opponent's. Opening statements in criminal trials, however, do not usually sound as if they were constructed with that goal in mind. Most fall into two categories: (1) long and detailed recitations of the evidence and the witnesses who will produce it, and (2) perfunctory appearances to comply with the trial list of ‘things to do’ that includes ‘give opening statement.’

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