The Law 12 classes recently participated in an exciting mock trial that was the culminating experience of the criminal law unit. The students were able to apply their knowledge of offences, defences, and the criminal trial process. Cases were selected from the Justice Education Society of BC which are loosely based on real-life trials. The students 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 theory.
In preparation for the trial, the student lawyers prepared direct and cross-examination questions based on witness role sheets; opening and closing statements, and learned the rules for making objections. Witnesses analyzed their characters and made thoughtful preparation on how they would portray themselves, as well as writing anticipated cross-examination questions. 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, the court clerk was authoritative in the execution of their role, and the lawyers fired away at witnesses during cross-examination. Both cases were professionally executed and highly entertaining!
The Block H class chose R. v. Hudson. Michael Hudson was accused of first-degree murder of his mother-in-law. The Crown prosecutors argued Hudson was experiencing severe stress in his life (theft from workplace resulting in loss of job, gambling debts, etc) and thus, rather than facing a humiliating confession to his in-laws, he chose to murder them. Defence, however, argued 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. The jury, which was made up of former law students, and teachers, agreed with defence and Hudson was acquitted of first-degree murder.
In real life, the accused, Kenneth Parks, was also 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 G 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 to warn him, and that this was an act of self-defence as she was in an abusive relationship.
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 acquitted Nicole Girard because they believed the expert witness’ testimony that she suffered from Battered Woman Syndrome, and thus was in constant fear of her life. In real life, the accused Angelique Lavallee, was also acquitted. 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.
Regardless of who won the case, the students were very passionate in their research, collaboration, and performance. They gained much confidence in their ability to argue their cases, and apply their legal knowledge.
Senior School Social Studies and Law Teacher