By Rich Matthews
I sat through some opening statements the other day, and can only just now talk about it. Even now, at some points in the story, I feel like pointing to a doll to communicate exactly where and how the two men in the black suits hurt me.
They did some good things – they actually had crafted some themes and frames that might still turn out to be pretty effective. But as an interested professional, I was looking for those things and was willing to sniff through a hill of crap to find the truffles. Fifteen jurors and alternates, I noticed, did not write down a single one of the themes that I thought were good.
What made these opening statements so bad? Well, the common lawyer tropes that make most opening statements so lousy. Look, just because you have heard something from older lawyers about How To Do Things, it doesn’t mean they are right about it. As I point out to people who proudly declare themselves “old school,” there are usually good reasons they tear down old schools and put up new ones. So let’s go through those vampiric clichés that suck the life blood out of a speech and never quite die.