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Old 01-05-2003, 02:53 PM   #1
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Question about US legal system


For some time now I have a question about the US legal system.
In the Netherlands we, of course, see many US movies and TV series. Some have scenes in a court, some are about lawyers (one of my favourites is 'The Practice'). Anyhow, the (criminal) cases have a fixed structure: opening, presentation of evidence, closing (this is applicable to many countries, I know. Bear with me, my question is coming). Now, the plaintiffs start with the opening (as they want something from the defendants) and with the presentation of evidence. However, in most of the series and movies I see, the defendants start with the closing arguments.

It seems logical to me that the plaintiffs also start with it, as they have to summarise why the defendants are guilty. Is there a special reason why the defendants have to go first? Or am I watching to many movies and series and is it just done for added drama?

Just wondering...

C ya!


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Old 01-05-2003, 03:32 PM   #2
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I know we have at least one attorney and a law student here. I am neither.

But, I think I can explain it.

In the United States the defendant is to be presumed innocent.

To convict "find guilty" the jury must agree the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The burden of proof is on the prosecution.

Therefore the prosecution gives closing argument last.

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Old 01-06-2003, 01:54 PM   #3
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The following is an outline of what happens at the close of a criminal action:

When the defense has rested, the prosecutor will give a closing argument, summing up the evidence presented against the defendant. The defense attorneys will then make their own closing argument. The prosecutor has one last chance for a rebuttal argument, addressing the points made by the defense in closing. The judge then instructs the jury on the law to apply in deciding the case.

Hope this helps.
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Old 01-06-2003, 03:13 PM   #4
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This reminds of the ol' mock trial days.
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