This opening statement was written by James Girvin, a student at Texas A&M University. It is based on characters in Maurice Braoddus’s Buffalo Soldier, published in 2017.
There were so many options for this project but after an afternoon of planning, coming up with my idea was not as hard as I first anticipated. An opening statement at the beginning of a trial is one of many aspects that must be delivered perfectly. As a lawyer one would want the jury to be engaged and interested in what is being said so that hopefully by the end of the case the ruling will fall in your favor. For my project, I have decided to use Buffalo Soldier by Maurice Broaddus to convey the argument that Desmond was never sent to protect Lij and instead kidnapped him to use the boy as leverage in the conflict between politics and religion.
My overarching intention for this piece was to challenge the commonly accepted idea that Desmond was sent to protect Lij from an enemy. Instead, I wanted to argue the idea that Lij was kidnapped by a dangerous stranger who craves power and dominance. I thought that this would be interesting because literature to me is about interpretation. Sure, there are commonly accepted ideas and themes in every piece, but an author wouldn’t write if there was only one correct answer. That would be boring. Essentially, I decided to write an opening statement to challenge the norm because I thought it would be fun to bring a new interpretation to the table that could spark interest in others. Additionally, I think that it is important to move away from a surface level reading of this text and dive more into a depth reading approach, since, after all this is what we have been studying all semester.
Aside from challenging what the book specifically tells us about Desmond and Lij’s relationship, I wanted to take this approach because of the strange way Lij hisses at Desmond when he tries to divert his attention from Cayt just before the start of chapter six. This left me unsettled and ever since I felt that there was something wrong with the situation between Desmond and Lij. Additionally, the cover art on the front of the book adds more support to the claim that Lij doesn’t want to be with Desmond. Desmond seems to be looking forward and Lij seems to be uncertain and uncomfortable as he walks along side of Desmond. It is as if he is searching for a way out.
When creating this opening statement, I pictured a jury as my intended audience. For me, the jury must be composed of a set of people that can develop sympathy for Lij relatively quickly over the course of the trial. As a result, out of the twelve people that serve on a jury I pictured most to be mothers from ethnic minorities. If this were a real court case, I would hope that the opening statement captured the attention of these individuals from the start so that they continue to be engaged throughout the trial. To capture the attention of the jury I made sure that the structure was clear and flowing allowing the opening statement to be spoken from the heart and not seem so rehearsed. I thought it was extremely important to make the jury feel like they were being spoken to and not lectured to. Additionally, I kept an ongoing theme by continually referring to Lij as a boy or child. By doing this the mothers on the jury should develop a sympathy for Lij and as a result will stay in support of my argument throughout the trial. I also wanted to build up suspense for the audience through the first few paragraphs so that by the time I reached the end I would still have their attention. I didn’t have to make too many adjustments when writing the opening statement. Besides working on telling a story there were few additional adjustments I had to make. Most if not all were minor and included dressing up the language and making it seem like Lij was coerced or tricked into leaving with Desmond.
I received most of my inspiration for this project by watching various opening statements on YouTube. Most, if not all, focused on a theme and telling a story so I made sure that I included aspects of each. I also noticed that they were relatively short and were important for giving the jury the first impression of each party in the case. Therefore, I spent some time making Lij seem innocent and Desmond seem wicked. The next thing I did was research the Texas Penal Code. The Texas Penal Code has every offense an individual can be charged with in Texas and the elements that constitutes each crime. Elements are what the prosecution must prove to get a guilty beyond a reasonable doubt verdict. This research was critical because if I didn’t understand kidnapping then my argument would have likely been invalid in a real court room. Furthermore, I found that Desmond would be charged with a more serious form of kidnapping because his case would involve taking someone with government information. Additionally, I found that while including evidence could be done, omitting it so that the jury can focus on one idea at a time is a more favorable approach.
Stay away from strangers. Never wander off. Everyday parents warn their children about the dangers of strangers in the real world. Kidnappers. Strangers who care only about themselves. Today’s case is about a stranger who stopped at nothing to take advantage of the life of an innocent child. The Defendant, Mr. Desmond Coke, is a Jamaican national and former espionage agent. For years the defendant has studied the conflict between religious leaders and politicians understanding the imminent war that lies ahead. As a result, he took a boy to use this child as leverage over two feuding parties promising safety to lure him in. Unfortunately, this boy fell for the defendants promises costing him his freedom.
It is our privilege to represent Jamaica’s bravest child, Lij Tafari. From the beginning of his life Lij has always lived with uncertainty of who he truly is and the power that he possesses. On one cool night, Lij was taken from his homeland of Jamaica by a man who would strike fear in anyone’s eyes. Wielding only a cane sword, he is known for being a relentless killer. This is a man who lives recklessly and never prepares to see tomorrow, so why would he have any business in wanting to protect a child? He doesn’t. Lij was just an element for leverage in a conflict he wanted no part of. Lij has done what any other scared child would have done when confronted by a mysterious man. He did what he was told. Unlike any other boy, Lij holds the answers for resolving a worldwide conflict and because of it his custody is invaluable to a stranger like the defendant.
Members of the jury I will be the first to tell you that the defense will say that Lij left voluntarily with the defendant. That he knew the defendant’s job was to protect him. However, they will not mention the nights that Lij did not approve of leaving. Or the times that he longed to escape. Lij was unaware of the consequences; of the dangers that existed ahead. He was just a boy. He left not realizing the greed and danger that the defendant posed to the wellbeing of them both. I’m here to prove to you that on this cool night in Jamaica, the defendant Desmond Coke kidnapped an innocent child to take advantage of the powers that he possessed.
First, he failed to gain adequate permission for taking Lij. Without parental consent and the inability for Lij to understand the complexity of his own situation, the defendant took advantage of this boy promising safety so that the defendant would gain individual power in a worldwide conflict. Second, the defendant knowingly and intentionally abducted Lij with intent to interfere with the progression of a government function. The evidence will show that this child holds valuable information in a conflict between political and religious officials as he was held captive by the defendant. Lastly, the defendant failed to both provide and release the victim in a safe place causing Lij to give up hope and live in danger while with the defendant.
Today, I expect the defense to argue that Lij voluntarily left with him understanding the consequences and potential danger ahead. But, you’ll see that this could not be further from the truth. He was just a boy. He had no idea about the potential dangers or even who the defendant was. All he knew was that not leaving would end his short-lived life. At the end of this trial you will find the defendant, Mr. Desmond Coke, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of aggravated kidnapping.
- Movieclips. “The Devil’s Advocate (5/5) Movie CLIP – I Don’t Like Him (1997) HD.” YouTube, 17 July 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEX-5gM0P8I&list=PLwdiGDy7krKWE2u8KMG7UYWOIMfoYB6S6.
- Murphy, Jim. “Hoffman Cup 2013 – 4 Opening Statement by Defense.” YouTube, 20 November 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lm2hwjFX45U.
- Rose, Charles. “Examples of Persuasive Opening Statements.” YouTube, 16 July 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6O51yZAOgA.
- Tex. Penal Code § 20.04 (a)(6).
Copyright 2018 James Girvin