VLUS Eighth Grade Mock Trial Lawyers Have Their Day In Court

VLUS Eighth Grade Mock Trial Lawyers Have Their Day In Court
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By: VLMonthly Staff Reporters

On November 14, the Courtroom was hushed as the Bailiff called the court to order and the well-prepared lawyers proceeded to present their case before a rapt jury.

This was Vassal Lane’s Eighth Grade Mock Trial Elective’s first trial, and the “courtroom” was our Auditorium, transformed for the occasion. The jury included both staff members and students, who gave up their lunch and recess period to perform their civic duty.

The issue at trial was whether the Defendant-the shipping company that owned and operated the legendary Titanic-was negligent in its operation of the Titanic on that fateful night in April 1912 when the ship struck an iceberg and sank. The Plaintiff was the Estate of a young man who perished in the icy waters that night, and his fiancé, who escaped to safety on a lifeboat, was a witness at the trial.

The witnesses’ parts were played expertly by our psychology intern from Columbia University Melanie Phruksachart, Mr. Grimm, and Stephen Lassonde from Harvard. Melanie said “It was an honor to play a role in the Eighth Grade mock trial! The students were so motivated, prepared, and professional. It was great to see so many people get involved to help make it a great experience.”

The Jury heard the lawyers’ statements and their examination of the three witnesses, and then, after deliberating, returned a verdict finding that the Titanic’s crew had been negligent.

The members of the elective are Adam Hermon, Jaden Jarvis, Anderson Guichette, Helina Mekonnen, Aidan Keefer, Jackson Moore-Otto, Caroline Workman, Dante Greco-Henderson, and Francesco Lupia. Bailiff Jaden Jarvis said about the trial “It was very fun and very cool.” Aidan Keefer, who made the closing argument for his client, the Defendant, had this to say about the experience: “Outstanding! Organized and great fun. I’m looking forward to the next time.”

Dante Greco-Henderson, also representing the Defendant, said he thought the jury was biased. (The Jury found that his client was found to have operated the Titanic in a negligent manner.)

But the jurors themselves reported that they carefully considered all the facts and the law and unanimously agreed that the crew-which failed to post ice warnings and was trying to break a speed record that night-failed to operate the boat with the care required. Ms. Peloquin, who was a member of the Jury, said “ I was intrigued by both the process of the court proceedings and the level of maturity and seriousness of the students. The lawyers in the proceedings were very professional and presented the case in a realistic manner. It was also fun to be discussing the case with other jurors and to come up with our "verdict". I finally agreed with the other jurors based on their noticing a small technicality in the case that swayed my opinion. Overall, it was a very memorable experience.” Mr. Sharif, who was in the courtroom as a spectator, said “I loved it. It was a great opportunity for these scholars to argue in a reasoned fashion, incorporating legal knowledge, and tying in historic fact.”

On December 11 the Eighth Grade Mock Trial group will travel to the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston to practice arguing a First Amendment case as part of a program sponsored by the organization Discovering Justice.

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