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The Difference Between an Opening Statement and a Closing Argument

The Difference Between an Opening Statement and a Closing Argument

An opening statement and a closing argument are crucial stages of a trial. The former provides an attorney the opportunity to get up in front of the judge and jury and articulate points that will be established during trial; while the latter is a time for an attorney to argue the evidence that was presented throughout the course of the trial. As the terms suggest, an “opening statement” comes at the beginning of the trial, while a “closing argument” occurs at the end of the trial after all the evidence is established.

In addition to the respective positions each maintains in the course of trial, there are other differences between the two stages. For instance, you cannot argue during the opening statement. An opening statement is a time to state to the judge and jury the forthcoming evidence. If you have ever been on a jury, or have seen documentaries regarding high profile cases, you may have noticed the attorney in his or her opening statement say “the evidence will show” before he or she describes a piece of evidence that will be provided to prove a point later in the trial. The phrase “the evidence will show” highlights to the judge and jury that during the subject’s trial, the forthcoming evidence will help establish the plaintiff’s or defendant’s position, depending on whom one represents. It’s important to remember during opening statements attorneys may compellingly advocate on behalf of his or her client, yet may not put forth arguments.

On the other hand, closing arguments occur after all the evidence has been presented at trial, and it provides the attorney an opportunity to argue the evidence did or did not establish the underlying claims. This ability to argue what the evidence showed is different than stating what “the evidence will show.” As opposed to the opening statement, at the closing argument stage of the trial, the attorney is allowed to argue the evidence in favor of his or her client’s position.

Both opening statements and closing arguments are critical moments during trial that can influence the outcome of a case. Although both of these times allow the attorney to get up in front of the judge and jury and present on his or her client’s behalf, one must keep in mind the differences between the two distinct stages of trial.


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