Opening Statements

Unless otherwise indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion.

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals

State v. Hansard, No. E2021-01380-CCA-R3-CD, p. 4 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Dec. 12, 2022). 

In a criminal trial, the prosecution and the defense are entitled to make opening statements prior to the presentation of the case that set forth “their respective contentions, views of the facts, and theories of the lawsuit.” T.C.A. § 20-9-301; State v. Sexton, 368 S.W.3d 371, 414-15 (Tenn. 2012). The purpose of an opening statement is to give a general overview of “the nature of the case” and “the facts each party intends to prove.” Sexton, 368 S.W.3d at 415. One boundary on an opening statement is that the facts presented must be “deemed likely to be supported by admissible evidence,” id. (citing Stanfield v. Neblett, 339 S.W.3d 22, 41-42 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2010)), and “[n]o reference should be made to facts or circumstances which are not admissible in evidence.” Id. (citing 75A Am. Jur. 2d Trial §§ 525, 526 (West 2012)).

State v. Burford, No. E2021-00655-CCA-R3-CD, p. 8 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Sept. 20, 2022).


A trial court should not make evidentiary rulings during opening statement; however, it may use its discretion to exclude from opening statements assertions which it deems unlikely to be supported by admissible evidence. Absent an abuse of that discretion, this Court will not overturn a trial court’s ruling in that regard. Id.


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