Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mock Murder Trial in Vermont

The formidable attorneys had to be up bright and early last Thursday ~ 5am for a 6am departure ~ to make the trek to Woodstock, Vermont where the trial they'd been preparing for all semester would take place. They would either be prosecuting or defending (a coin toss would decide) a Mrs. Barbara Barrett who was accused of murdering her own husband.  Complicating matters was Mrs. Barrett's alleged years of suffered verbal and physical abuse by her husband. Complicating matters even further was a letter found in the same room as the deceased and written by him to someone he called "Tootsie."  (It seemed that Mr. Barrett had been having an affair.) And then there was the arresting officer who failed to read Mrs. Barrett her Miranda Rights, the Barrett's housemaid who heard the murder take place from the next room and called police, but who also had been previously convicted of petty larceny (can her testimony be thrown out?), and the un-licensed, so-called psychologist (an expert witness???) who had only counseled with Mrs. Barrett after the murder took place, but had diagnosed her with "battered woman's syndrome" and indicated that Mrs. Barrett's violence toward her husband was brought on solely due to a temporary lapse in sanity because of said syndrome.

Many angles, I tell you.  It made for an extremely riveting day in court.
The legal team did some final preparations and then entered the courtroom for the coin toss. Defense would be the side they would play, which was actually the side they were hoping for, because they were counting on discounting the testimony of the housemaid, Lee Porter because of her petty larceny record.
We all rose to our feet as the judge entered the courtroom ~ a real Vermont judge in a real Vermont courtroom.  He began the court proceedings, carried them all throughout the trial, and treated the whole situation with much seriousness and authenticity.  I was so impressed by this man ~ he was so great with the students!
Witnesses were called to the stand, sworn in by the bailiff, questioned, and cross-examined. Objections were made and considered, but graciously overruled for the most part. Exhibits were entered and presented.  Autopsy results were explained.  There were opening remarks and closing ones, and even a break for jury deliberation.
Unfortunately, Cooper's request that the housemaid's testimony be thrown out on the basis of "moral turpitude" was not agreed to by the judge, but he did ask that the jury make note of the fact that this witness had been convicted of stealing $100 from a previous employer.
Sadly, this defense team was not quite as prepared as the prosecution and so did not get to move on to the next round. We did stay to watch, though, and I'm so glad we did, because the second round was between two highly prepared teams, and this is where the riveting part came in.  What amazed me most was that the prosecution team now had to switch sides and play defense. Wow.  They had super solid, well thought out arguments on both sides of this case and ultimately ended up winning the second round as well.  They pulled out all the stops with their exhibits A, B, C, and D, and even used theatrics.  The beautiful red-head in the photo below played the accused and while holding a tissue, broke down in tears on the witness stand as she was questioned about her marriage and the abuse she suffered. There were literal gasps in the crowd as we listened to the excellent arguments both sides were making.  Really impressive.
Above are all three teams together representing Classical Conversations Challenge B classes from Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire.  (Notice who couldn't stay in their dress clothes for one second beyond what was required?) The mock trial is a culminating project that brings together the logic, science, short story, and research components of their curriculum for the year. I've said it here many times, but I'll say it again: I am so thankful for the wonderful homeschool program that Classical Conversations is.  What a great experience to spend a semester preparing for a trial with your peers, and a whole morning in an authentic simulation of court proceedings and discussions of the law and its technicalities.  What a smart way to tie together the chosen course of study for the year.  What an encouragement to have a real judge compliment their composure, decorum, and respect ~ and even offer them all future jobs! ☺ So thankful Cooper had this opportunity.  Kayla's up in two years!

Have I ever told you that I learned about Classical Conversations from my friend, Tamyra, who lives in Oklahoma?  And guess what other Pioneering Oklahoman's kids participate in Classical Conversations and the mock trial?
And what a beautiful day to be in quaint Woodstock, Vermont.  When the stress and anxiety of the courtroom was behind us, we ate a picnic lunch on the green with everyone, enjoyed a stroll across one of Vermont's famed covered bridges...
... took walk downtown and ate a dish of homemade ice cream made with milk from a nearby dairy farm.

Beautiful day, beautiful state, beautiful opportunities for my kiddos.  So thankful.


lettersfromheartscontent said...

I love this, Melanie! I regret not taking pictures--glad to see you got the gang. MT really is amazing. Every year I see a little better how the studies of the year prepare the students for this event. And Mr. Glover was amazing. I don't think I could ever find someone else as kind and thoughtful. Glad you could come to Woodstock!

Melanie said...

Hi Ruth!

I didn't know you were a blogger! Glad to have discovered that. Tutoring Challenge 1 this year for the second time, and loving it ~ though it really keeps me on my toes. these kids are sharp! Hope you are well!