Law 12 Students Hold Mock Trials

The Law 12 classes recently participated in an exciting mock trial that was the culminating experience of the criminal law unit. The girls were able to apply their knowledge of criminal offences and defences and learn the criminal trial process. Cases were selected from the Justice Education Society of BC and were loosely based on real-life trials. The girls selected their various roles (lawyers, judges, witnesses, and court clerk) and worked tirelessly with their team (either Crown or Defence) to put forward their best argument. In preparation for the trial, the girls wrote their own examination and cross-examination questions based on witness role sheets; lawyers wrote their own opening and closing statements, learned how to make objections, and prepared their witnesses for questioning. The judge was tasked with giving legal and procedural instructions to the jury, ruling on lawyer objections, and ensuring order in the court for a smooth trial, and; the court clerk prepared the trial script and the exhibits of evidence. Collaboration and communication between team members was essential to the success of their roles. There were many outstanding performances by witnesses who mastered their testimony and fully embodied their roles, in either the attire they chose or the accent they acquired to represent their character. The judges were confident in their rulings to objections, and the lawyers fired away at witnesses during cross-examination. Both cases were professionally executed, yet highly entertaining!

The Block A class chose R. v. Hudson. Michael Hudson was accused of first-degree murder of his mother-in-law. His defence was that he was sleepwalking and therefore, it was a defence of automatism. Automatism acknowledges the guilty act, but lacks the intent to be held criminally responsible. Crown, however, argued this was an excuse to cover how severe stress in his life (due to loss of job, gambling debts, etc.) provided the motive for murder. The jury, which was made up of former law students, and teachers, did not believe the sleepwalking defence and found Hudson guilty of first-degree murder. This carries an automatic sentence of life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years. In real life, the accused, Kenneth Parks, was acquitted as it was proven by many experts that he was indeed sleepwalking during the commission of the crime, and that severe stress can actually be a trigger for sleepwalking. The Defence also proved a family history of sleepwalking and a lack of motive due to his close relationship with his in-laws. This was a precedent-setting case that first established sleepwalking as a defence. It has rarely been used in Canadian courts.

Block A chose R. v. Girard. Nicole Girard shot her live-in boyfriend from behind and was charged with second-degree murder. The Defence argued that she did not mean to shoot him, only warn him, and that this was an act of self-defence as she was in an abusive relationship and constantly feared for her life. Crown, however, argued that Girard was equally hostile in the relationship, and intended to kill him in that moment as an act of revenge. In the end, the jury did not believe Nicole Girard had the specific intent to be found guilty of murder; however, they convicted her of the lesser charge of manslaughter due to her reckless use of a gun. As there is no minimum or maximum sentence with manslaughter, the judges sentenced Girard to only 6 months in jail, in recognition of her years of abuse. In real life, the accused Angelique Lavallee was acquitted as the jury believed the expert witness testimony that she suffered from “battered woman syndrome”. This was a precedent-setting case that first recognized “battered woman syndrome” as a legitimate defence, and that unlike the requirement of imminent threat needed for a successful conviction in self-defence, a battered woman is in a constant state of fear for her life.

The students were very passionate about the project and did a superb job!

Sonia Baldissera
Social Studies / Law Teacher