The People of The United States vs. Thomas Jefferson

Jack:

This Year, The Galileo school hosted a mock trial titled The United States of America vs. Thomas Jefferson. Why did we host this Mock Trial? Because We wanted to learn more about Thomas Jefferson, a key character in American History. We researched and learned about the process of a trial, the roles people play in a trial, jury selection, and looked at many examples of criminal trials over months to come up with the result. We also consulted various professional lawyers along the way.

The trial took place in a courtroom on the campus of St. John’s University. Payton, playing the role of the prosecuting lawyer representing the U.S , charged Ava, playing the role of Thomas Jefferson, with hypocrisy.  Although there is no law against hypocrisy, we defined hypocrisy and created our own law for the purpose of the mock trial.  I played the role of the defense attorney and represented Thomas Jefferson. Payton, claimed that Thomas Jefferson was a hypocrite for saying he believed all men were created equal in the Declaration of Independence, and believing otherwise.  The trial took just over an hour, and the result was a hung jury. Throughout the months of researching and working and thinking and writing, the most important thing I took away from the trial was respect for lawyers in general,

I spent over three months on one case. One case, that took many hours to complete. Yet I didn’t even win. I can’t imagine doing that as my job. I would probably have fun, but the endless paperwork and cases might take a toll on me by the time I finish. I can imagine representing someone who you know is guilty, but you are helping him escape a just sentence. I thought Thomas Jefferson was guilty of hypocrisy, until I spent so many hours protesting that he is innocent.   I soon believed it myself. I can imagine the frustration that must come before the trial, thinking you have no evidence, thinking you are at a dead end. Countless times I had to re-route my argument into a different  direction.  So I have concluded that the biggest lesson I learned is that working as a trial lawyer is hard,  much harder than I thought before the trial.

Payton:

The thrill of a court room, the tension between attorneys and the adrenaline when the verdict is about to be read aloud are things that most 14 year olds don’t get to experience. I, however, was lucky enough to play Prosecuting Attorney in the trial of  The People of the United States vs. Thomas Jefferson. It was so interesting to see how the United States justice system works.  I learned the correct way to write a bill and a law and how laws are passed. We also learned appropriate court room behavior and the lingo used between counselor and judge.  As the prosecuting attorney, I had to find evidence that Thomas Jefferson was guilty of hypocrisy.  After a few months of preparation, we finally made it to our mock court room.  It was so neat to be able to say ‘ I Object!’ or ‘The prosecution rests.’  I never imagined I would ever get a chance to be a part of a mock trial!  I had a great time watching the jury deliberate. It was so interesting to see what everyone had to say on the subject. In the end, it was a hung jury!  Not all of the 12 jurors could decide if Jefferson was innocent or guilty. I had such an amazing time working on this Mock Trial.

Ava:

The Mock Trial was an amazing experience. Being the defendant was eye opening. So much pressure when your  life could be ruined because you answered one question wrong.  It was a great way to learn about the American criminal justice system. I thought that Jack and Payton had very good cases and the jury had so many good ideas and without them we would not have been able to accomplish this. When I heard one of the jury member’s ideas it completely changed my position on the matter.  I think that was my favorite part, hearing the jury,  because when one person says something it could change your thoughts on everything.  I loved being Thomas Jefferson.  I got to wear a costume and talk like him and act how he would act and even though it was difficult it was worth it.  All in all I think that as a fifth grader, I am lucky to be doing mock trials especially in a real court room.

Stay tuned for a video of the complete mock trial! Coming soon!

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