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I just saw the opening statements for the George Floyd case.

At the end of the opening statement of the State, they presented a slide with several bullet points that gave personal information about George Floyd. For example, one being he's a father and brother, etc.

All of the information on the slide was completely irrelevant to the case. The state is obviously trying to emotionally manipulate the jury into thinking that Floyd is a "good guy".

Why would the judge permit the State to present irrelevant information to the jury?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Pat W.
    Mar 30 at 11:51
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Opening and closing statements are to state the reason we are in court today and thus are more emotional appeals than factual summations. Consider writing a term paper or five-paragraph essay. You do not use your opening or final paragraph to present factual evidence or cite sources, but rather state your objective and core arguments and what you intend to show in your paper.

The prosecution's listing of Floyd's positive qualities is to remind the jury that while the defense will rely on Floyd's criminal past and alleged engagement in unlawful activity immediately prior to his death, Floyd was still a human being and while his crimes did happen, Floyd was important to people and his death leaves a huge hole in the lives of those who knew him as more than just a criminal and the jury should keep this fact in their mind as they hear all sorts of nasty evidence. They are in effect reminding the jurors of a principle Shakespeare said way better than I could:

"The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones;"

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act III, scene 2

On the other side of the coin, the defense will have time to give counter statements to the effect of Floyds character as well as discuss the better angels of their client's nature as well.

They are summing up the points they intend to show and the facts they wish to demonstrate for the jury so the jury is primed to know what to look for with the evidence.

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  • If being a father and a brother, for example, are not relevant they will not be points they intend to bring into evidence so the preview would not strictly be a preview of what is to come. The judge wouldn't stop this unless the defense made an objection and they might have thought such an objection would have made them look petty and hurt the case. Mar 29 at 19:45
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The defense made it relevant. If the defense is going to argue that elements of Floyd's character and past are relevant to the case, then the prosecution generally gets to undercut and counter that with facts of his character and past that cast him in a more positive light. Similarly, if the prosecution gets to provide such things, then the defense gets to provide their own evidence to the contrary.

Furthermore, opening statements are not held to a "strict, dispassionate facts" standard. If anything, it is closer to say they are prohibited from this, and attorneys are actively encouraged to avoid dispassionate opening statements (studies have shown that most jurors know what verdict they will return as soon as the opening statements are done). While legal arguments are not permitted, courts have held that "enthusiastic rhetoric, strong advocacy, and excusable hyperbole” are permissible in an opening statement (Com. v. Siny Van Tran, 460 Mass. 535 (2011)).

And that pretty much covers your concerns. All you're complaining about is nothing more than stating "this man's death was avoidable, unwarranted, and unjustified", which is exactly what the prosecution is about, only with an extra helping of enthusiastic rhetoric, strong advocacy, and/or excusable hyperbole.

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