Today the Mock Trial Court of Storyville in the State of Fable held two sessions.
In the morning session, a devastating turn of events led to one of the prosecutors mistakenly leaving her briefcase at home. With moments to spare, the attorney’s loyal paralegal delivered the necessary notes just in time for the trial to begin (thanks, Averi!). Ms. Levitt didn’t miss a beat and then delivered a powerful opening statement outlining the reasons why the jury should find the defendant guilty of burglary and murder. On behalf of the defense, Mr. Hardi spoke eloquently about the difficult life led by the defendant and the reasons why he could not be found guilty of the crimes.
The prosecution then called their first witness, Mrs. Martha Giant. Mrs. Giant proved a despondent but resolute witness. Through tears, she denied that she had given the defendant, Jack Jones, permission to take the goose and golden egg. She maintained that her husband, the deceased Mr. Arthur Giant, had not been threatening Mr. Jones but had simply been singing his favorite song (that age-old ditty “Fe Fi Fo Fum”).
The prosecution then called Inspector Albert Morse. Inspector Morse testified as to the circumstances of the crime. The defense on cross examination attempted to expose that Inspector Morse was biased against the defendant and that this bias affected his judgment during the investigation. Inspector Morse testified that he is impartial and treats everyone fairly.
The defense then called Mrs. Nora Jones, the mother of the defendant. Mrs. Jones testified that her son was simply trying to help support the family. Somewhat surprisingly, she stated her full support for Jack’s decision to take the goose and golden egg, and expressed pleasure that the goose would have given her and her son the financial security they craved. The prosecution was relentless in their cross examination of Mrs. Jones, admonishing her repeatedly when she attempted to answer yes or no questions with longer narratives.
After closing arguments from both sides (Ms. Weatherly for the prosecution giving a particularly touching description of how Mr. Giant had had such a lovely morning before his encounter with Mr. Jones, and Ms. Shin for the defense imploring the jury to take pity on “poor, poor Jack Jones”), the jury retired to deliberate.
They returned within moments and delivered their verdict — they found Jack guilty on all counts. None of the jury members seemed at all convinced that Jack had been acting in self defense (although they did concede that Mrs. Giant seemed concerned that Mr. Giant was going to kill Jack).
In the afternoon session, Ms. McCowan delivered a powerful opening statement without notes, having lost her outline only moments before (something about prosecution opening statements was cursed today!). Ms. Nowlin then spoke for the defense, arguing that Jack could not be found guilty of either burglary or murder.
The prosecution called their first witness, Mrs, Martha Giant. Mrs. Giant testified that Jack refused to leave her home when asked, stole her husband’s goose, and that he was responsible for her husband’s death. On cross examination, the defense hit Mrs. Giant with some difficult questions, painting her into a corner and attempting to get her to admit that she told Jack he could take the goose. At one point, Mrs. Giant broke into tears and could not continue her testimony.
The prosecution then called Inspector Morse to the stand. After he testified as to the details of the crime scene, the defense presented him with a line of difficult questions about his feelings toward the defendant and possible past misconduct on Inspector Morse’s part.
The defense called Mrs. Nora Jones, the mother of the defendant. She testified that her son had lived a difficult life, and admitted that he had been in trouble. She attempted to tell her story as much as possible, even when asked yes or no questions.
Thereafter, Mr. Jack Jones took the stand. After a thorough direct examination, the prosecution really let Mr. Jones have it. They were relentless in their questioning. Mr. Jones held firm, listening to all of the questions and making sure he answered them to the best of the ability and in the way that told his story best. He kept his cool under pressure!
We then heard a professional and persuasive closing argument from Ms. Boesen, speaking for the prosecution, and a stirring defense for Jack from Ms. Klein.
The jury retired to deliberate, and at times we could hear the sounds of their spirited discussion next door. They returned shortly thereafter with a verdict — guilty on the burglary charge and guilty of “second degree murder.” They felt that Jack hadn’t planned the crime in advance so couldn’t be guilty of murder (something that we hadn’t mentioned during the trial… I think some of them watch Law & Order). I asked them about self defense and they replied that they did believe that Jack was acting in self defense, but that they didn’t believe this was enough to justify murder. Even though the law says it is (it was at this point that someone in the courtroom mentioned “jury nullification”).
I hope this unit gave the students some sense of how our justice system works. They used their critical thinking skills to develop their arguments and questions. They got a taste of how it felt to be attorneys and witnesses. Watching their classmates react emotionally on the stand I hope helped them understand how a real witness might feel during a trial.
Overall, the students did an admirable job and they should be proud. I apologize that it was so hard to hear at times (or much of the time). For next year I think I need to look into obtaining a microphone of some kind. It was so nice to have so many of you here and I know the kids were thrilled. I wish I could have provided more comfortable accommodations! If you have photos of either trial (but especially the morning one) and you wouldn’t mind forwarding them, please do! I would love to insert them into this post so that we have some visuals. Thank you Blanca Snyder for the pictures in this post! Video clips hopefully to follow once I have them uploaded.
Finally, I have to give a huge thank you to all of the second grade teachers, who were so flexible and supportive while this trial came together, and to Shelly Skomra, who loaned me seven of her students to serve as jury members. I couldn’t have done it without Heidi Lang, who supervised both juries, gave up her own lunch to oversee the afternoon deliberations, and pleaded with the cafeteria (who kindly obliged) to feed our jury members when they missed their lunch time during the trial. Thanks also go out to our third and fourth grade jurors, who served enthusiastically and took their responsibilities quite seriously.