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Home School Life Journal ........... painting by Katie Bergenholtz
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Saint Francis DeSales

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.


5 comments:

  1. I'm trying to decide what board I should pin this to. I ended up with generic history because it doesn't go with a specific area of history, maybe US history.

    Either way it's a great activity.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I know what you mean. I wasn't sure if it was appropiate for the History and Geography Meme because it is really civics or government, but I decided in the end, that it would fit under American History, too.

      Delete
  2. I would think this had been rather difficult to pull together. You did an amazing job! I have to go so far to say, imo, it's one of the coolest things you've done!

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  3. This is so cool! I served as a juror in a murder trial last year, so my daughter learned quite a bit from my explanations at home about exactly these topics.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is fantastic! Your students should really learn a lot.

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