PURPOSE OF MOCK TRIAL AT RVHS- For many years, RV Law Class have ended their semester with a mock trial final. A month-long process, mock trials are demanding, but rewarding exercises in knowledge, ability, and self confidence. In preparing for the subjects of these trials, I found myself drawn to a certain style of material- trials that were semi-historical in content, ones that have the ring of authenticity to them. These types of trials taught more than the law, they taught history, social commentary, and sometimes, philosophy. I liked that, and I was not alone; students often preferred these trials as well, because the people in the cases were not hollow and they could relate to the places depicted. As I began to modify these cases to suit our classes, I noticed that the cases naturally take one of two main forms. The first I call 'Counterfactual' and the second I call 'Real Milieu'.
What is 'Counterfactual' Mock Trial?
The style of a counterfactual mock trial is the same as exploring history counterfactually. That is, counterfactual history concerns itself with asking a single 'what if' question of history and then speculating on the outcomes that may have occurred had that 'what if' came to fruition. Our counterfactual mock trials follow that gameplan. We first find a suitable historical crime (or alleged crime), then postulate a single 'what if' and keep all the rest of the material as historically accurate as possible. The students then try (or in some instances, retry) the case. For example, our Taliesin case centers around Julian Carlton and his alleged murder of seven individuals at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin. In real history, Carlton dies before he can stand trial. Our 'what if' in this case is, 'What if Carlton didn't die and remained healthly enough to stand trial?' As long as we keep every other element of the case historically accurate, the students will answer the 'what if' after they try the case. And guess what, you have learned history at the same time.
What is 'Real Milieu' Mock Trial?
The 'real milieu' style of mock trial also teaches more than the law; depending on its content, it can expose students to history, politics, psychology, or even philosophy. But the primary reason for this structure is to instill a sense of place in the students; show the interconnectedness of a community and the ripple effect of crime. This is the kind of experience police officers see daily- the uneasy symbiotic relationships of the environment, people, and crimes they commit. For this type of trial, it is essential for the environment and its people (the milieu) to be as historically (or currently) factual as possible. Only the alleged crime and the main players involved in that alleged crime are fictional. The fictional persons and their actions are plugged into the 'real milieu' and students try the case from there. These trials are most unsettling because the 'real milieu' I like to use is often Spring Green, Arena, Lone Rock, Bear Valley, Plain, Wyoming Valley, Clyde...
-Mr. J Hollenberger
Previous and Upcoming Mock Trial Finals-
2017 - Wendy Holloway Murder Trial (Plain, 2016) (Real Milieu)
2016 - Blake Jenson Murder Trial (Lone Rock, 2013) (Real Milieu)
2015 - Amy Bledsoe Murder Trial (Spring Green/Arena, 2013) (Real Milieu)
2014 - Taliesin Murder Trial, 100th Year Anniversary Redux
2013 - Andrea Stover Murder Trial (Spring Green, 2012) (Real Milieu)
2012 - Titanic Wrongful Death Suit, 100th Year Anniversary Redux
2011 - Annie Lemberger Murder Trial, 100th Year Anniversary Redux
2010 - Severed Hand Trial (Barneveld, 2008) (Real Milieu)
2009 - Knight Abduction Trial (Mazomanie, 1997) (Real Milieu)
2008 - Taliesin Murder Trial (Spring Green, 1914) (Counterfactual)
2007 - Titanic Wrongful Death Suit (New York, 1912) (Counterfactual)
2006 - Annie Lemberger Murder Trial (Madison, 1911) (Counterfactual)