Opening statements are an outline of the topics and evidence that will be significant to the case against a defendant who has been accused of a crime. This outline or overview is delivered in the opening statements that are provided by the attorneys at the initiation of the trial.
In general, the prosecution is first to communicate directly to the jury members and the court, explaining the prosecution's version of what they believe to be the facts of the case. They will also express how they will prove beyond a reasonable doubt, through testimony given and evidence presented how they will meet the burden of proof for a guilty verdict to be returned.
The defense will try to introduce contradictive facts to what they know the prosecution may present as well as painting a picture of the innocence of their client. They may also explain how the evidence to be brought forward is either circumstantial or will not assist the prosecution in meeting their burden of proof as well as trying to bring into doubt other evidentiary issues that they believe will be proposed.
Once opening statements are concluded, all testimony and articles introduced at trial can be termed as evidence. From this point forward, the jury will have to evaluate all matters that are voiced or presented by both the prosecutorial body and the defense.
By this time, both the prosecution and the defense are aware of all evidence that will be presented at trial that was disclosed during the discovery process. However, if new evidence is uncovered after the trial begins it can be added to the already accepted collection with approval of the presiding judge. All lists of witnesses scheduled to testify will also have been disclosed to both the defense and prosecution.
The Federal Rules of Evidence
In criminal cases, The Federal Rules of Evidence normally administer actions in United States courts and proceedings before judges and magistrates, to the degree and with the exclusions specified in these rules. Presented by the United States Supreme Court and modified by Congress on various occasions, these rules are considered judicial representations that have the power of statute, and courts may interpret them as they would any equivalent statute, engaging customary apparatuses of statutory structure in applying their requirements. Their purpose is calculated to secure objectivity in jurisdictional direction, eliminate uncalled-for expense and postponement, as well as promoting the progression and improvement of the laws of evidence so as to ascertain the truth and fairly resolve the proceedings.
They explain the admissibility or inadmissibility of evidence in court. Although states have their own, slightly different rules regarding evidence, they generally follow the federal guidelines. Accordingly, the rules give courts authority to adapt the laws of evidence to circumstances as they arise.
To view the 2014 edition of The Federal Rules of Evidence click here.
Admissible evidence is potential proof that can be produced during trial to support or challenge the arguments relayed in a criminal case. For evidence to be considered admissible, certain standards must be met. Disagreements about its admissibility frequently are approached in criminal trials. Both defense attorneys and prosecutors may attempt to suppress evidence which can hamper their case with the final objective being the weakening of the opposing side's position. Evidence can appear in a number of forms. But in all criminal cases it is considered admissible if it can be used to support or disprove facts which are related to the case as well as having a direct bearing on it. If documents, exhibits or testimony, are established to be inconsequential to a case, they may be judged to be inadmissible. Inadmissible evidence generally lacks trustworthiness and reliability.
To read about the different types of evidence presented and excluded at trial click here