Academics, Upper School

Students Engage in Nuances of Legal System

In the school’s annual mock trial simulation, senior Law and Society students portrayed attorneys and witnesses in a case centered on self-defense at the Seattle Municipal Court, on Thursday, May 24.

"This project gave me a different understanding of the legal system, which I found is a lot more traditional than I thought," says senior Jonah H., who was one of the defense attorneys. "What you are allowed and not allowed to say in front of a jury is interesting and it was a real challenge to phrase your argument correctly."

This year's case involved a defendant who was charged with two counts – assault in the first and second degree – for shooting a victim in the stomach during a physical argument. Assault in the first degree, the more severe of the two charges, requires the state to prove the intention to inflict great bodily harm, whereas assault in the second degree does not require intent.

The students presented before King County Superior Court Judge John McHale (whose three children graduated from Northwest) and a jury consisting of their peers. The jury convicted the defendant of assault in the second degree.

The mock trial challenges students to think and react quickly for the better part of three hours. Students portraying attorneys were responsible for opening and closing statements and cross examinations. Students who took the role of witnesses fully adopted the personas of different people. The proceedings required students to not only master rhetoric while crafting their arguments but also work together as a team to win the case.

"This is experiential, project-based education, and it is powerful, memorable, and dynamic," says Law and Society teacher Scott Davis. "The students gain a deeper appreciation or understanding of the legal system and how the rules that govern that system intend to provide the closest thing to justice as possible."