Don West is expected to deliver the opening statement for the defense. Here's a thread to talk about what you expect each side will say and won't say and what you think they should and should not say.
My thoughts: An opening should utilize principles of story-telling. For a self-defense case, the story should include:
- the idea of actual innocence
- a likeable human being much like the members of the jury or someone they love who sits here unjustly accused, and
- whose conviction would be a terrible wrong
- Telling the story from a positive point of view
- Accepting the “facts beyond change”
- Presenting a consistent and cohesive alternative to the prosecution theory
- Taking advantage of anticipated jury instructions
The opening should use vivid language. It should be concrete not abstract, specific not general, and paint vivid word pictures. Quotables, trilogies, repetition of the "hook" are all good. They stick in the minds of jurors.
One example that always comes to mind is the "hook" Michael Tigar used in opening in the Terry Nichols trial: "Terry Nichols was building a life not a bomb." He must have said that four or five times. In the end, the jury rejected the death penalty for Nichols, a huge feat. (Robert Hirschhorn was also the jury consultant in that trial.)
Opening statements are not supposed to be argumentative. The jury is not ready for argument. At this stage in the trial, a story is more effective persuasion than argument. (The facts in the story argue for you. )
I think West will focus on the attack by Trayvon rather than what preceded it.
Of course he can't ignore what happened previously, but it won't be the focal point. It's enough to say there had been burglaries in the neighborhood. The neighborhood watch, started with assistance from Sanford police, urged residents to report people or things out of place. He wasn't "on patrol" or "on watch" that night. He was going to the grocery store, as he did every Sunday night. He had a concealed weapon on him for which he was licensed. He usually wore it when going to public places.
And then go into some details about spotting Martin and what he told the non-emergency calltaker about why Martin aroused his suspicion, (which included he acted like he was on drugs or something) and his actions after the call taker said "He's running? Which way is he running?
He'll recount that George said "Okay" after the calltaker said "We don't need you to do that" and began walking back to his car when Martin appeared out of nowhere and asked him if he had a problem. He tried to diffuse the situation by saying "No, I don't have a problem." Martin said, "Well you do now" and decked him.
I hope he then increases his animation as he stresses George's injuries, the suddenness of the attack, his calling out for help but no one came, his fear of serious bodily injury, his willingness to cooperate afterwards, the consistency of his statements (which, only had there not been some minor variations, might be cause for skepticism.) He'll likely refer to witnesses who are anticipated to support GZ's version of events. He'll tell them about credibility issues with some witnesses who may have a personal or financial interest, or bias or in the case (which will be in jury instructions.) He'll tell them what they won't hear from any witness -- that GZ physically confronted Trayvon.
As for what would be a good hook, any ideas?