8th Grade Mock Trial: Andrew Jackson is NOT GUILTY

On February 25, 2016, the Villa Academy 8th Grade U.S. History students traveled to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle to try former president Andrew Jackson for his alleged crimes against humanity, which occurred in the 1830’s as Americans moved west. The specific charges stated that “President Andrew Jackson, with premeditated intent, did conduct or authorize a widespread or systemic attack against a civilian population (herein, the Cherokee Nation), where the following methods were employed: murder, extermination, deportation or forcible transfer of population, and other similar inhuman acts that caused great suffering and serious injury.”

The 8th grade students spent almost seven weeks preparing for this trial. Prep included learning the historical context of Native American removal, specifically, the idea of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion. Then, students digested almost thirty pages of primary source material, which ranged from speeches to letters, from first-hand accounts to Supreme Court decisions, and maps to formal portraits. After several discussions about trial strategy and then further research to support our strategies, students selected seven witnesses for each the prosecution and the defense. Once students were given roles, they had to write a statement about how their role fit into the context of the trial, and what evidence from the source material packet would assist them. Final preparations involved digging further into research for particular roles and strategies, drafting opening and closing statements and examination questions, learning about courtroom protocol, questioning techniques, voir dire and objection rules, and practicing their testimonies.

The trial opened with jury selection. Facing a pool of 13 possible jurors, student attorneys began the voir dire process, asking questions of the jury pool to begin to shape their own side’s narrative. Both prosecution and defense identified favorable jurors and were able to strike jury pool members who hinted that they may not “buy in” to the narrative of the case.

The trial lasted several hours, though a few jurors were in tears within minutes of the Prosecution’s opening statement. Students battled back and forth between direct and cross examinations, showcasing both their exhaustive preparation and their abilities to think on their feet. 8A, the prosecution, focused on the nature of politics, wherein politicians often say something to get elected, only to act differently when in offce, during their opening and closing statements. Defending President Jackson was 8B, who focused on the difficult decisions Presidents and Heads of State have to make, and the process of making those decisions, to suggest that while Jackson did, in fact, aim to help the Cherokee, his actions did not have the intended impact.

Ultimately, the jury returned a NOT GUILTY verdict after debating the charges and testimony. While the jury agreed that this was an inexcusable event in American history, they believed that Andrew Jackson could not shoulder the blame legally.

The students impressed everyone: the judge, court clerks, visiting parents, jurors, Mr. Guadagno, and both Ms. Brooks and Ms. Reznicek. In fact, the court staff has since said that the kids were incredibly professional, poised, and confident.

One parent-spectator commented, “What a huge success today! The students were so professional. They clearly understood both the moral and ethical issues of Native removal as well as the complex legal analysis of the case. I was amazed to see all of my kid’s hard work put into action. It’s a highlight of 8th Grade.”

One student said, “Mock Trial was engaging, fun, greatly informative, and one of the best parts of 8th grade. Mock Trial requires students to research in depth and in doing so turns history class into a big game that everyone can enjoy.”

Another said, “Mock Trial really engaged me and I feel like learning about the Judicial system in this way is preparing me for the real world where I might need to be on a jury.”

Judge Coughenour invited the students to ask questions about his career, including his appointment by President Reagan and his most well-known cases. The students were able to tour Judge Coughenour’s office, library, and jury room, as well as the holding cells outside the courtroom.

We are so grateful to Michael Guadagno for all of the ways he supported the 8th Graders during this experience. He put forth an incredible amount of effort and time, and his guidance was invaluable.

Check out the list of students’ roles and photos of our day, below!

8A — Prosecution 8B– Defense
Maggie: Opening Statement / Voir Dire Kate: Opening Statement / Voir Dire
Margaux: Direct examination of Samuel Cloud Pilar: Cross examination of Samuel Cloud
Diego: Samuel Cloud
Sydney: Direct examination of General John Wool Alexa: Cross Examination of General John Wool / Voir Dire
Collin: Brigadier General John Wool
Lucy: Direct examination of Junalaska Betsy: Cross examination of Junalaska
Katie: Junalaska
Corrado: Direct examination of Davy Crockett Colin: Cross examination of Davy Crockett
Will: U.S. Representative Davy Crockett
Rachel: Direct examination of Samuel Worcester Colin: Cross examination of Samuel Worcester
Paul: Samuel Worcester
Sam: Direct examination of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall / Voir Dire Cate: Cross examination of Chief Justice Marshall / Voir Dire
Elle: Direct examination of Principal Chief John Ross
Savanah: Principal Chief John Ross Nathan: Cross examination of John Ross / Voir Dire
Emma: Direct Examination of Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin
Kate: Cross examination of Governor Lumpkin Justin: Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin
Rihan: Direct examination of Col. John W. A. Sanford
Catie: Cross examination of Col. John Sanford Owen: Col. John W. A. Sanford
Carson: Direct examination of Major Ridge
Catie: Cross examination of Major Ridge Smith: Major Ridge
Minola: Direct examination of John Ridge
Tess: Cross examination of John Ridge / Voir Dire Jocie: John Ridge
Ellie: Direct examination of Elias Boudinot
Jonah: Cross examination of Elias Boudinot / Voir Dire Lizzie: Elias Boudinot
Axel: Direct examination of Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott
Ben: Cross examination of Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott Peter: Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott
Anna: Direct examination of Pres. Andrew Jackson
Lily: Cross examination of President Jackson James: President Andrew Jackson
Cameron: Closing Statement / Voir Dire Charlie: Closing Statement / Voir Dire

IMG_0274 IMG_0277Jackson Boys 8BJackson Group 2Jackson Group 1Jackson Group 4 WP_20160225_09_36_48_Pro WP_20160225_09_36_53_Pro WP_20160225_09_59_13_Pro WP_20160225_13_32_01_Pro WP_20160225_09_37_30_Pro WP_20160225_10_27_07_Pro WP_20160225_10_37_13_Pro WP_20160225_09_37_54_Pro WP_20160225_09_37_15_Pro WP_20160225_10_52_33_Pro WP_20160225_10_51_53_Pro WP_20160225_11_29_13_Pro WP_20160225_10_56_29_Pro WP_20160225_09_37_18_Pro WP_20160225_10_37_35_Pro WP_20160225_09_37_38_Pro WP_20160225_11_29_10_Pro WP_20160225_10_18_30_Pro WP_20160225_13_11_15_Pro WP_20160225_11_36_29_Pro WP_20160225_09_37_58_Pro WP_20160225_09_41_06_Pro WP_20160225_10_27_55_Pro WP_20160225_10_44_22_Pro WP_20160225_10_33_13_Pro WP_20160225_11_37_37_Pro WP_20160225_10_01_15_Pro IMG_0314 IMG_0319 WP_20160225_13_09_18_Pro IMG_0301 WP_20160225_11_12_17_Pro WP_20160225_13_44_28_Pro WP_20160225_09_41_31_Pro WP_20160225_10_07_20_Pro WP_20160225_10_42_44_Pro WP_20160225_11_38_41_Pro WP_20160225_13_21_48_Pro WP_20160225_11_38_45_Pro WP_20160225_11_36_27_Pro IMG_0285 WP_20160225_13_11_23_Pro WP_20160225_09_57_00_Pro WP_20160225_13_21_57_Pro WP_20160225_10_27_58_Pro WP_20160225_11_48_55_Pro WP_20160225_13_38_31_Pro WP_20160225_13_07_04_Pro WP_20160225_11_44_51_Pro WP_20160225_13_21_55_Pro IMG_0302 WP_20160225_09_37_36_Pro WP_20160225_13_10_39_Pro WP_20160225_13_40_29_Pro WP_20160225_13_22_29_Pro WP_20160225_13_07_10_Pro IMG_0316 WP_20160225_11_35_07_Pro WP_20160225_13_10_43_Pro WP_20160225_10_45_09_Pro WP_20160225_11_29_19_Pro WP_20160225_10_36_53_Pro WP_20160225_13_09_32_Pro WP_20160225_10_19_02_Pro WP_20160225_10_54_50_Pro WP_20160225_11_44_34_Pro WP_20160225_10_54_55_Pro WP_20160225_10_57_09_Pro WP_20160225_13_30_55_Pro WP_20160225_11_11_59_Pro WP_20160225_10_38_10_Pro WP_20160225_09_47_42_Pro WP_20160225_11_05_59_Pro WP_20160225_11_21_58_Pro WP_20160225_13_04_53_Pro IMG_0291 WP_20160225_13_38_16_Pro WP_20160225_13_09_28_Pro WP_20160225_11_45_43_Pro WP_20160225_10_57_18_Pro IMG_0317 WP_20160225_13_07_22_Pro WP_20160225_13_31_02_Pro WP_20160225_09_40_47_Pro WP_20160225_10_57_25_Pro WP_20160225_13_09_08_Pro WP_20160225_10_42_37_Pro WP_20160225_09_41_37_Pro WP_20160225_10_49_16_Pro WP_20160225_10_44_49_Pro WP_20160225_09_56_48_Pro WP_20160225_10_56_34_Pro WP_20160225_11_37_23_Pro WP_20160225_13_11_13_Pro WP_20160225_11_11_37_Pro WP_20160225_09_36_43_Pro WP_20160225_11_37_08_Pro WP_20160225_10_56_02_Pro WP_20160225_11_36_51_Pro WP_20160225_10_52_21_Pro WP_20160225_11_49_05_Pro WP_20160225_10_27_12_Pro WP_20160225_11_11_49_Pro WP_20160225_10_04_46_Pro WP_20160225_10_37_17_Pro WP_20160225_10_27_51_Pro WP_20160225_10_52_14_Pro WP_20160225_10_51_26_Pro WP_20160225_10_19_36_Pro WP_20160225_13_48_16_Pro WP_20160225_11_42_21_Pro WP_20160225_11_42_00_Pro WP_20160225_10_01_19_Pro WP_20160225_10_44_46_Pro WP_20160225_11_20_27_Pro WP_20160225_10_18_48_Pro WP_20160225_13_07_16_Pro WP_20160225_11_11_52_Pro WP_20160225_11_44_10_Pro WP_20160225_10_56_10_Pro WP_20160225_10_27_47_Pro WP_20160225_10_37_51_Pro WP_20160225_13_22_18_Pro WP_20160225_10_33_06_Pro WP_20160225_09_52_37_Pro WP_20160225_11_47_55_Pro WP_20160225_11_37_16_Pro WP_20160225_13_44_15_Pro WP_20160225_10_52_11_Pro WP_20160225_11_44_22_Pro WP_20160225_10_04_44_Pro WP_20160225_13_10_33_Pro WP_20160225_09_56_32_Pro WP_20160225_10_59_42_Pro WP_20160225_11_44_42_Pro WP_20160225_11_28_46_Pro WP_20160225_13_15_53_Pro WP_20160225_10_26_27_Pro WP_20160225_13_07_42_Pro WP_20160225_11_12_12_Pro WP_20160225_10_29_20_Pro WP_20160225_11_29_38_Pro WP_20160225_13_16_02_Pro IMG_0312 WP_20160225_11_05_48_Pro WP_20160225_11_29_31_Pro WP_20160225_13_11_29_Pro WP_20160225_11_21_52_Pro WP_20160225_10_27_00_Pro WP_20160225_13_16_05_Pro IMG_0288 WP_20160225_13_06_48_Pro WP_20160225_10_42_30_Pro WP_20160225_13_22_11_Pro WP_20160225_10_09_12_Pro WP_20160225_11_34_50_Pro WP_20160225_11_20_34_Pro WP_20160225_09_45_30_Pro WP_20160225_10_59_51_Pro WP_20160225_13_48_11_Pro WP_20160225_09_39_28_Pro WP_20160225_10_26_23_Pro WP_20160225_13_38_12_Pro WP_20160225_11_09_45_Pro WP_20160225_11_48_47_Pro WP_20160225_10_01_34_Pro WP_20160225_10_59_49_Pro WP_20160225_13_31_57_Pro WP_20160225_10_14_46_Pro WP_20160225_11_34_57_Pro WP_20160225_13_44_22_Pro WP_20160225_13_04_39_Pro WP_20160225_10_49_07_Pro WP_20160225_11_48_01_Pro WP_20160225_09_39_22_Pro WP_20160225_10_14_25_Pro WP_20160225_10_04_40_Pro WP_20160225_09_52_24_Pro WP_20160225_09_47_54_Pro WP_20160225_11_42_15_Pro WP_20160225_13_04_44_Pro WP_20160225_09_37_00_Pro IMG_0318 WP_20160225_13_09_02_Pro IMG_0309 IMG_0304 WP_20160225_10_07_11_Pro WP_20160225_13_30_49_Pro IMG_0308 IMG_0294

Comments are closed.