When you try cases, you spend a lot of energy thinking about how to present your client’s story as persuasively as you can. There are always options and sometimes there’s no clear choice how best to proceed.
But sometimes there is a clear choice. For example, this video of George Zimmerman’s attorney beginning his opening statement with a knock-knock joke (itself preceded by a lengthy disclaimer, and followed by his protest that the joke really was funny) is painful to watch.
Since the start of your opening statement is one of the few times you know you have all the jurors’ attention, why waste that opportunity going for a cheap laugh that doesn’t seem to advance your client’s interests or enhance your credibility? Tony Soprano once said that “‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.” I think the knock-knock joke may have a new claim to that title.