Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Mock Trial, part 2: The Opening Statements

Here is a format you can use to write your own Mock Trial Opening Statements.

Calling of Case by Bailiff

"All rise. The Court of _______________ is now in session. Honorable Judge ______________ presiding.

Each side may outline the proof to be presented to the jury during the trial. Opening statements are not evidence, only expectations of what each side expects the evidence to prove. These statements are not evidence but only explanations of what each side claims and expects to prove. The claims must be proved by evidence. The conflicting claims constitute the issues.

The Opening Statements for the Prosecution


Good morning, my name is ________, and I am the prosecutor in this case. It is my pleasure to represent the people of this state. On {date of incident}, the defendant in this case {describe what he or she did in detail}. At the conclusion of the case we will ask for a verdict of guilty. 
It may be helpful to point to the defendant in the courtroom when you refer to him.


Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this case is about {sum it up in a memorable way...examples could be...a defendant who could not control his anger or a man whose greed got the better of him or  a defendant who is pretending to be insane to avoid being held responsible for his own actions}. 
These are some pretty basic themes. To develop your own theme, try to summarize your prosecution case in a sentence or two.


Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution will call three witnesses to the stand. We will call (first witness) officer __________ who will explain that he was on duty in (place) (when...possibly...on the night of the robbery), and (did what? possibly...responded to the 7-11 and observed the defendant fleeing from the scene with a bag in his hand. We will call (second witness, such as...the store clerk who was on duty, and she will testify (what?... such as...that she recognized the defendant as the robber even though he had a bandanna covering most of his face.) Lastly we will call (third witness...such as, a government psychologist) who will testify what? such as... that he did a mental health assessment of the defendant. The psychologist will testify that the defendant was definitely not insane at the time of the commission of the crime.)
A couple of examples are provided above, but you will need to summarize for yourself what each witness is going to testify to. A lengthier opening statement will provide a lot of details as to what each witness will say. 

Anticipate the defense theories:

A good prosecution opening statement will try to anticipate the points that the defense will raise in their opening. Remember that the prosecution has to give their opening statement first so you will have to guess a little as to what the defense will say. Often times a prosecutor will state something along the lines of “Ladies and gentlemen, the defense may argue that the defendant acted in self-defense, however, the witnesses will all state that it was the defendant who approached the victim and began attacking him.” Or the prosecution will state: “Ladies and gentlemen, the defendant may argue that the defendant was temporarily insane at the time of the fight. However, we will show that the defendant was merely intoxicated when the fight broke out, and not of the witnesses will describe unusual behavior.”


At the conclusion of the case we would ask you to find the defendant guilty, that the state has not met its burden of proof. Thank you.

The Opening Statements for the Defense


Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my name is so-and-so and it is my privilege to represent (name of client) in this case before you today.


In your defense opening statement, your job is raise some doubt in the jurors minds about the prosecutor’s claims as to what your client has done. So after you introduce yourself, and tell the jurors who you represent, you should begin to highlight the facts in the case that support your defense theory.

"You have heard the prosecutor explain what she hopes will be proven, but the prosecutor did not tell you all the facts.
The prosecutor has explained that my client was (example: identified” as the bank robber), but in fact  (example: this supposed eye-witness is a man that has held a grudge against my client for a long time, and he has made many inconsistent statements about the case.)

The prosecutor has explained (next point...such as...that my client was found the next day with over 50 thousand dollars, but none of those bills’ serial numbers was matched to any bank, and my client had the money due to a recent inheritance.)

The prosecutor has stated (next point...such as....that my client confessed to the robbery, but this statement was made to the police under coercion, and my client is mentally ill and didn’t know what he was saying.)

So we would ask you to keep an open mind and listen to ALL the evidence, and return a verdict of “not guilty”. Thank you."


Solving the Mystery

This week students organized the information they have been getting by analyzing the crime scene map and the lab work they have completed.
 To facilitate their organization of the clues, I took a piece of poster-board and divided it into columns which I headed with the suspects names.
Then we reviewed each of the clues that they could get from the crime scene map...
and the lab work they completed and they evaluated what implications of each clue and put it in the proper column or columns (some clues could implicate more than one person.) 
We then went over each clue and determined whether it was something that definitely implicated that person or whether it indicated that it could be evidence to implicate that person. For the ones that were definite, we outlined them with a marker. We discussed the possibilities of who had committed the crime and talked about whether the suspects had the means (the ability) to commit the crime and what the possible motive (the reason the suspect committed the crime) might be.
We then made a timeline of the events as stated in the statements from the suspects. To make the process easier, we assumed that everything that the suspects said was the truth from their point of view and that the murderer just left out the part where the crime was committed. This helped the students to see the sequence of events and when the suspects had opportunity (whether the suspect had the chance to commit the crime).
I then took a show of hands for each suspect to see which students thought which suspect committed the crime. (There were a few who thought it was multiple people working together.) Based on this, I broke the students up into groups with similar thought and asked them to come up with a story about what happened the night that Mr. Body was killed. (We even had a group that felt that Mr. Body had committed suicide.)
After some time, I had them come back together and each group was allowed to present their case and the rest of the class was allowed to ask questions or ask for facts to back up their story's details. When all the groups were finished, I took another vote and discovered that the stories changed some people's minds.
I did not tell them who I had intended to be the criminal because next semester we are going to take the criminal(s) who the class voted to be the most likely to have committed the crime to trial, and I want them to see through this process how important it is to have solid evidence to convict a criminal. It is a learning process!
As a follow-up to this class, we also had a Mock Trials class. We based the entire Mock Trials class on the information we had gotten from this class. 

History and Geography Meme #181: American Indians, lesson 7: Native Americans, part 1: Northeastern Indians

American Indians, lesson 7:  Native Americans, part 1: Northeastern Indians

  • Read about the Indians of this cultural area. List the tribes on the large map you created.
  • Draw pictures of artifacts, tools, clothes and houses unique to this area.
  • Study the houses used in this area. Observe the materials that are used in this area. You could make a model of a wigwam or longhouse out of similar materials you can gather outside.
  • What is the weather like in the Northeast? How did this affect what houses the Northeastern Indians lived in? What did they eat?

The Northeast Indians lived in an area of cold winters and warm summers. Their houses protected them from the cold winter weather. Long houses held many people. The long house was divided into many small living spaces for related family groups. Several long houses formed a community. Some of the Northeast Indians were farmers, while others relied on hunting, fishing and gathering. Maple sugar was plentiful in the Northeast.

  • Read about the Iroquois' sachems. Women could not become sachems but they could remove a sachem if he did not perform up tho their expectations. Discuss their method of decision making.
  • Read about the importance of religion in the lives of the Northeastern Indians. Read about their beliefs and their practices. Compare their religions with Christianity.
  • The Iroquois played lacrosse. What are the similarities and differences between their form of lacrosse and our own?
  • The Northeastern Indians were some of the first to meet European settlers. Read about Squanto, a Patuxet Indian, who helped the settlers. Discuss what happened between the Indians and the early settlers that caused them to become hostile toward each other.

Sources and resources:

  • Incans, Aztecs and Mayans, John Holzmann
  • The World of Columbus and Sons, Genevieve Foster
  • The Kingfisher World History Encyclopedia
  • Homeschool Curriculum, Grade 6

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Mock Trial, part 1: Introduction to Trial Procedure

As an introduction to our mock trial, I gave them an overview of the parts of a trial. There are nine parts to a criminal trial.
  1. Jury Selection
  2. Opening Statements
  3. Presentation of Prosecution's Case
  4. Presentation of Defense's Case
  5. Closing Arguments
  6. Jury Instructions
  7. Jury Deliberation
  8. Verdict on Guilt
  9. (If Guilty) Sentencing

We are going to be writing a script of a mock trial as we go through the course, and hopefully, we will be able to record the final script as our mock trial class final project. Because of this, we will not be focusing on the parts of a trial that have to do with the jury, but I wanted to go over them so that the students had a complete picture of the trial process.

Jury Selection
  • Find out about the jury
  • Challenges for cause: can be things that would render the juror ineligible for jury duty such as felony conviction, or is biased in some way. Unlimited amount.
  • Peremptory Challenges (get 6 in a criminal case, unless it is a capitol crime, in which case you get 12.) You do not have to give a reason. 
To give them an idea of what the trial procedure looks like, I had them watch this video clip. Before they saw the clip, I told them to pay particular attention to 
  • how the attorney's introduced themselves 
  • the language the attorneys used
  • the theme of the case
  • how attorneys provide character sketches of the key people involved in the case
  • how the attorneys tell their side of the story by introducing the witnesses and describing the evidence, not by argument

Opening Statements
We then went on to learn about and create Opening Statements. I divided the class into two groups, the Plaintiff/Prosecution and the Defense. We then went through the various parts of the Opening Statements.

  1. What is the Prosecution's/Defense's goal in this case?
  2. What are the elements of the charge and the defense?
  3. Character sketches: Talk about the importance of how the Plaintiff/Defendant are perceived by the jury in this case. How does each side want to portray these people? Students then look to the testimony of the various witnesses to find good descriptors and then, work together or alone, each student writes a 1-2 sentence description of the significant characters.
  4. Theme: Talk about how jurors instinctively use themes to reduce the large amount of information they hear into something they can easily remember, so attorneys should select a theme for them. A theme can be a single word or a short phrase. Include key words that the jury can hear again and again during witness testimony and the closing arguments. 
  5. Important Facts for Each Witness: For each of their own witnesses, students should identify which facts or evidence are crucial to their side.
  6. Theory of the Case: A theory of the case is your side's version of what "really" happened. It should incorporate all the uncontested facts and your side's version of the contested facts. It should be simple to understand.
  7. Homework is to draft an opening statement which will include:

    • An introduction of the attorney (such as "Good morning, my name is _________ and I am representing ______, the defendant in this case...."
    • A theory of the case (On date, who, did what, how {such as in an act of revenge.})
    • Theme: such as "This is a case about revenge.."
    • A character sketch of the major people involved in the dispute: such as "_________ was an angry woman with a grudge against the world"
    • An explanation of the charge/defense: such as "You will asked to decide whether this was an act of self-defense, which requires three things. First..."
    • An introduction of the major witnesses for one's own side, such as " You will meet ________, who has known the defendant for many years..."
    • The key evidence that those witnesses will present, such as "_______ will testify that ________ did not even have his knife with him that fateful night..."
    • A conclusion requesting a verdict: "We ask that you find the defendant not guilty..."

These will be read in class and voted on as to which will be included in the final script, or perhaps the best parts of each draft will be put together to make the final script.

Note: This class was a follow-up to the CSI class and we used the interviews from that class for this assignment.

CSI: More Labs: Determining pH, Iodine and Vinegar Demonstrations and Fingerprint Analysis

This week we analyzed the cola and the ice cube tray for poison, determined what the white powder found at the crime scene was and examined the fingerprints on the glass.

Class Preparation:
  • You will need to have fingerprints for the students to compare with the cup. Use only the thumb and of course make sure that the same person who left the fingerprint on the cup is the same as the one you are using for Mr. Body. Have fingerprints for comparison for the suspects as well.
  • You will also need to take with you the cup that was taken from the crime scene in which you developed fingerprints.
  • You  need to make up some cabbage juice pH indicator. I found the easiest way is with a blender. You will also need a can of cola and three containers, preferably very small. An eyedropper is very helpful.
  • You will need to bring with you water from the ice cube tray (the water you have added 1 Tab. baking soda to 1 cup of water.)
  • In addition to the mysterious white powder that was collected from the crime scene, you will need to take with you a package of corn starch, a package of baking soda and some egg carton trays cut into six sections. Small plastic spoons and an eyedropper are very useful as well.

Class Activities:
  • Analyze the cola for poison. Obviously, I didn't put actual poison in the cola (and I told the students this) but it does afford us an opportunity to do some pH demonstrations and it mimics similar techniques used to determine what a substance is in actual labs. I put about 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda in the cola to change its pH. For this demonstration, have three small containers available (I used vials). Have your students put some cabbage juice pH indicator in each of them. I used an eyedropper for this. At this time, I talked about what pH was, related it to gardening, and showed them that cola was acidic by the fact that phosphoric acid is one of its ingredients, and that for the purposes of this scenario, our possible "poison" was alkaline. I then talked about how cabbage juice can indicate the pH of a substance, determining whether the substance is acidic or alkaline, by its color change. I then had a student add some of regular cola to one of the vials and the students were thrilled to see the color change despite the fact that the cola was colored brown. They then added some cola from the crime scene and were delighted to see that it changed to a different color. This proved that "poison" was added to the cola! What does this clue tell you?
  • Analyze the water in the ice tray for poison. Do this in the same way as you did the cola, using plain water and the water from the ice cube tray (in which you have already added baking soda to.) The colors will be even more dramatic without the cola brown to mute them. Your students will find out that the poison was in the ice, and therefore got into the cola probably from the ice. What does this clue tell you?
  • Analyze the mysterious white powder to determine whether it is cornstarch or baking soda. To your six-section containers add cornstarch to the two cells of the first column, and baking soda to the two cells of the second column. Now have your students test the first row by adding three or four drops of iodine to the powders. If the iodine turns black, that means there is the presence of a starch. You can see that it doesn't change color in the baking soda. Now have your students test the second row by adding a few drops of vinegar to the cells. The vinegar will fizz in the presence of baking soda, and will do nothing to the cornstarch but get it wet. Now have your students test the mystery powder. Is it cornstarch or baking soda? What does this clue tell you?

  • Compare the fingerprints that have shown up on the cup with those in the case file. You might need to help your students by guiding them to look for loops, whorls and arches. 
  • source
    What does it mean that only Mr. Body's fingerprint was found on the glass?

Next week we will be analyzing all of the clues to help us determine what happened to Mr. Body.

CSI: The First Labs: Ink Chromotography, DNA Fingerprinting, Handwriting Analysis, Developing Fingerprints

We did our first labs for our CSI class. This class will need a little prior preparation, but it was well worth it because the kids were very interested and kept to task the entire period.

Preparing for Class:
The chromotography demonstration set-up.
  • Prepare chromotography strips for the class. Take the pen you used for the note and another pen and make chromotography strips for them. Instead of a second pen, to make sure the strips are dissimilar, you can use ink from a jar of ink used in pen and ink projects or you can make your own ink by mix together 1/2 tea. red food color and 1/4 tea. green food color. 

from Mystery Science; Part III: Ink Chromotography (If you want to do the experiment yourself)
Make a dot of the ink from the ink used to write the note on one 1-inch x 3 inch rectangle of paper towel. Make a similar dot of the second ink on an identical 1-inch x 3 inch rectangle of paper towel. Label each strip with a pencil. Tape the strips each to a pencil or craft stick. Set these sticks over the rims of two glasses of water so that the water touches the strips and climbs up the strips. When the water moves through the dots, the ink should separate. They should separate in a different manner. If they don't, then choose another type of ink for your second sample. You want them to look noticeably different.
  • Prepare the DNA fingerprints. To prepare someone's DNA fingerprint, cells are removed from that individual and the DNA is extracted from those cells, then cut into small pieces with restriction enzymes. Because everyone's DNA is different, restriction enzymes cut everyone's DNA into different sizes and numbers of pieces. By analyzing the DNA pieces, an investigator can distinguish one individual from another. To look at these pieces, the DNA fragments are loaded onto a gel and then are exposed to an electrical field that causes the fragment to travel through the gel. The rate and distance at which fragments can travel through the gel depends on their size.  Eventually the fragments form invisible bands throughout the gel. These DNA bands are then transferred to a nylon membrane. Radioactive DNA probes are added to the membrane, then x-ray film is placed over the radioactive probes on the membranes. When the x-ray film is developed, the radioactive probes have exposed it in places where there is DNA. This film makes a DNA print. As you can see, completing this process in a class lab would be difficult (although not impossible -see below) and so you will need to draw some fictitious DNA fingerprints. On a thin strip of white paper, draw a series of thick, medium and thin lines with gaps of various widths between them. Make two copies of one (one for the perpetrator and one that the lab will give to your CSIs) and different ones for the other suspects.
  • Prepare handwriting samples. Have four people, including the person who wrote the note, give a handwriting sample, even if it is just a signature on the statements (see below.)
Class Activities:
  • Read and analyze the suspect's statements. I wrote out statements of each of the suspects. They were a little lengthy to put in this post, but if you are interested in doing this scenario, I can send them to you. (NOTE: I HAVE SINCE LOST THESE DURING S HIME RENOVATION PROJECT AND CANNOT SEND TO ANYONE. I AM SURE YOU CAN MAKE UP STATEMENTS THAT WILL FIT. JUST THROW IN A COUOLE OF RED HERRINGS!) The pertinent facts were that a brown pen was found in the kitchen and another in Professor Plum's front pocket. Each of the statements were signed. Analyzing the statements for clues may take a bit of time, so work through it slowly.
  • Perform chromotography lab on the ink from the brown pens. Your students will now perform the same lab as you did with the two inks, with the ink from the mysterious note. Which ink is it more like once it begins to divide? Can you identify which pen the ink came from. Who does this implicate?
  • Identify the DNA fingerprint from the hair in the comb. Explain the process of DNA fingerprinting and then show your students the DNA fingerprint you made that the lab will give to your students. Show them the DNA fingerprints from all the suspects. Have them compare them and match the DNA fingerprint from the lab to the matching one among the suspects. What does this clue tell us?
  • Analyze handwriting samples. Have your students compare the handwriting samples to that of the mysterious note. There are twelve basic characteristics your students can look for  when comparing handwriting. They can circle where they see similarities in the samples. Which one has the most comparisons to the note? What does this tell us?
    • Line quality: Do the letters flow or are they written with very intent strokes?
    • Spacing of words and letters: What is the average space between words and letters.
    • Ratio of height width and size of letters: Are the letters consistent in height, width and size?
    • Lifting pen: Does the author lift his pen to stop writing a word and start a new word?
    • Connecting strokes: How are capital letters connected to the lower case letters?
    • Strokes to begin and end: Where does the letter begin and end on a page?
    • Unusual letter formation: Are any letter written with unusual slants or angles? Are some letter printed rather than written in cursive?
    • Pen pressure: How much pen pressure is applied on upward and downward strokes/
    • Slant: Do letters slant to the left or right? You may be able to use a protractor to determine the degree of the slant.
    • Baseline habits: Does the author write on the line or does the writing go above or below the line?
    • Fancy writing habits: Are there any unusual curls or loops or unique styles?
    • Placement of diacritics. How does the author cross the t's or dot the i's?
  • Develop the Fingerprints. Hold up the bag from the crime scene with the fingerprints.  Put 3 or 4 drops of Krazy Glue on a small piece of aluminum foil. Place the glue so that it won't directly touch the cup and seal the bag and put it some place safe. Explain that over several hours, the gas from the glue will adhere to the oils of the fingerprints and make the fingerprints appear white and easier to see. Explain that you will have them try to identify the fingerprints the next time you meet.

(Note: You can do your own DNA fingerprinting lab if you can buy Edvotek Kit #109 ($79), electrophoresis apparatus ($199), power supply ($199), automatic micropipet and tips ($179), balance, microwave or hot plate, white light visualization system ($119). Obviously this is out of most home educator's budget for just one science demonstration. I felt I needed to say, however, that it can be done at home, if you are so inclined.)

Super Blood Moon Eclipse Art

To continue with Alex's postcard art projects, we decided to celebrate the Super Blood Moon Eclipse that occurred on September 27. I got the idea from the Full Moon Trees art project from Art Projects for Kids, but we executed it a bit differently.
We started off with a postcard sized piece of cardstock. This size lends itself to well, sending as postcards, but also to fitting inside a schoolwork portfolio. I usually have Alex also write a paragraph about the subject in the piece and that makes a very fine portfolio of learning by the end of the year. I also find that small pieces are easier for my special needs student to accomplish without frustration or fatigue. All-in-all it works out well for us.
Anyway, back to the project at hand... first I traced a spice lid to use as our moon. If you think your student can do this himself, then by all means, have him do it, but I knew that Alex would struggle with this part, so I did it for him.  
Next, I had him use dark blue and purple chalk pastels to cover all of the card except the moon. I had him use his fingers to blend these colors a bit (a technique I learned from the Pastels Tutorials at Hodgepodge).

We then went on to add the black trees limbs using black tempera paint. He did most of the limbs, but since he had trouble add a fine touch with his brush, he let me add a few thin branches on the ends of his limbs. It really helped to make them look real. My goal is for Alex to have fun, learn a bit and accomplish his project, so if he needs help here and there, I have no problem with it. If you feel you want your child to do all of his own work and he is unable to do the fine work, then by all means, leave the finer limbs off. 
It was here that we remembered that we wanted to do a little orange-ish blood moon effect, so rather than leaving it out entirely, he went back and added some orange and red in the moon using chalk pastels. Because we had already painted the trees, it has a little bit of gaps where the tree limbs cross, but I actually in the end liked the effect a lot. If you would like it more even, then your student might want to add the orange in when he is working with the chalk pastels for the background. 
This is the second one of the same project. I have him complete two of them so I can send one as a postcard to his aunt, and save the second one for his portfolio.

Nature Calendar: October

source: The Chuppies Monthly nature calendars from Natural Science Through the Seasons by James A. Partridge

How to Make Red Cabbage pH Indicator (without stinking up the kitchen!)

Red cabbage makes a great pH indicator, but making it by boiling it on the stove for the juice can make the house smell like, well, cabbage, which for most, is an unpleasant smell.
There is an easier way, and, surprisingly, it produces more juice than the boiling method.
  1. Take about 1/3-1/2 of a small red cabbage and slice it into large shreds.
  2. Put the cabbage shreds into a blender.
  3. Add about 2 cups of boiling water.
  4. Turn on your blender and blend until you have a mush (yes, mush is a scientific term on this blog.)
  5. Put a strainer over a bowl. Pour the mush into the strainer, straining out the juice.
  6. Now you can  use this red cabbage juice as an indicator. Acids will turn the pigments in the indicator to a reddish color; bases will turn the pigments bluish or yellow-green.
How to Make Litmus Paper with Red Cabbage Juice

  1. Cut strips from plain white paper towels about an inch wide and a couple inches long.
  2. Take the paper towel strips and soak them in the cabbage juice for about a minute. Remove them and let them dry on something that won’t stain.
  3. Let the paper strips dry and as soon as they are dry your litmus paper is ready to use.