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right to begin

The right of a party at trial to present his case to the court first (i.e. to open the case) by making the opening speech and presenting his evidence. The right to begin usually belongs to the party who carries the persuasive *burden of proof. Thus, in a criminal case the prosecution always has the right to begin; in civil cases the plaintiff normally begins, but the defendant may do so when he has the burden of proving all issues.

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