Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139
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A number of linguistic studies on courtroom discourse deal with witness examinations, however counsels’ opening statements have been given relatively little attention. Drawing on the analysis of a Crown Prosecutor’s opening statement in a murder trial held at the Supreme Court of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and using the Systemic Functional Linguistics framework ( Halliday 1994 ), this study highlights the ways in which the prosecutor constructs his narrative of the crime in his opening statement in order to persuade the jurors of his views. Specifically, the analysis highlights the ways in which the narrative is made persuasive through its specific rhetorical organization and over-specification of orientational information, as well as more credible through quotations from participants with personal experience in the related events. It also shows the ways in which the prosecutor seeks to engage the jurors through his use of second-person pronouns, as well as his differentiated use of the crime participants’ names. Finally, this study highlights the dialogic and heteroglossic characteristics of the adversarial legal process, in that it both refers to what was previously stated and tries to anticipate the response of the jury, whose voice comes as the last word through their verdict.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): courtroom discourse; language of law; legal-lay discourse; narrative; opening statement
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