When someone is accused of a violent crime, one of the most critical parts of their defense may be the narrative their attorney conveys to the jury.
Why does this matter? Well, mostly because jurors are human beings, and human beings understand facts, figures and other kinds of evidence when those things are presented in a narrative that makes sense.
The defense narrative may be told throughout a trial — but perhaps most succinctly in the opening statements and closing arguments.
Criminal defense and the concepts of primacy and recency
Essentially, researchers have discovered that when people sit down to learn a subject (in the way that jurors are asked to sit and learn about the facts of a trial) they remember best whatever information they hear first (the primacy effect) and whatever they hear last (the recency effect).
With that said, it’s easy to understand why an attorney’s opening statement and closing argument can be so important.
The primacy effect and recency effect are both particularly important in long trials, like those involving a homicide, where jurors may have been given a great deal of evidence and listened to contrasting viewpoints among experts.
When selecting your defense attorney, one of the things to consider is how well you believe your potential defender can relate your case in a compelling way. In other words: Do you think the attorney will make a good first and last impression on the jury?
When you’re facing violent crime charges
The best thing you can do when you’re facing a violent crime charge is to exercise your right to remain silent. If possible, the only person who should do any talking to the authorities is your defense attorney. For more on these matters, please see our overview of defending against violent crime charges.