Opening Statements & Presentation of Evidence

Opening Statements

The lawyers each make an opening statement outlining what they intend to prove. Jurors should understand that these opening statements are not evidence. Afterward, the plaintiff is usually the first to present evidence to support his or her position, and the defendant follows with his or her evidence.


The plaintiff may then offer evidence to rebut or explain any of the defendant’s evidence. Most evidence is presented through the oral testimony of witnesses who speak under oath. The lawyer who has called a particular witness asks a series of questions referred to as the direct examination, and the opposing lawyer follows with the cross-examination. The first lawyer may then ask more questions on re-direct examination.

During the course of the trial, the lawyers may object to certain testimony or other evidence that the opposing party offers. The judge then decides whether the law allows such evidence to be presented. When the judge sustains an objection, the evidence is not allowed. When the judge overrules an objection, the evidence is allowed.

In a civil case, the plaintiff has the burden of providing the elements of his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence is defined as that superior weight of evidence which, while not enough to completely free the mind from a reasonable doubt, is sufficient to incline a reasonable impartial mind to one side of the issue rather than the other.