Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers
Rights and Responsibilities of Students Rights and Responsibilities of Students — Other Lessons
Legal Thriller Alternative: Trial Research
by the Constitutional Rights Foundation
Aside from the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, there have been many criminal trials that have generated enormous publicity. Some have even been hailed as “the trial of the century.” In this activity, you will research and report on one of these trials.
- Select one of the following trials:
- 1865 trial of Dr. Samual A. Mudd for aiding conspirators in murdering Abraham Lincoln.
- 1865 trial of Captain Henry Wirz for war crimes at Andersonville Prison.
- 1886 Chicago Haymarket bombing trial of August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Michael Schwab, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, Albert R. Parsons, Rudolph Schnaubelt, William Seliger, and Oscar Neebe for conspiracy to commit murder and riot.
- 1892 trial of Lizzie Borden for the ax murders of her father and stepmother.
- 1907 trial of Bill Haywood for murdering Frank Steunenberg, ex-governor of Idaho.
- 1921 trial of Sacco and Vanzetti for robbery and murder.
- 1925 trial of John Scopes for breaking the Butler Law against teaching evolution.
- 1935 trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann for kidnapping and murdering the Lindbergh baby.
- 1950 trial of Alger Hiss for perjury.
- 1951 trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg for conspiring to spy for the Soviet Union.
- 1954 and 1966 trials of Sam Sheppard for murdering his wife.
- 1969 trial of Sirhan Sirhan for assassinating Robert Kennedy.
- 1971 court martial trials of Lt. William Calley and Captain Ernest Medina.
- 1976 trial of Patty Hearst for armed robbery.
- 1982 trial of John Hinckley for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.
- 1982 and 1985 trials of Claus von Bulow for the attempted murder of his wife.
- 1984 trial of John Z. Delorean for selling cocaine.
- 1985 trial of Bernhard Goetz for attempted murder, assault, and illegal gun possession.
- 1990 trial of Imelda Marcos for racketeering and fraud.
- 1992 trial of Manuel Noriega for racketeering and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
- 1992 and 1993 trials of police officers Laurence Powell, Stacey Koon, Theodore Briseno, and Timothy Wind for beating Rodney King.
- Use the tips in FILTER (see below) to help you research the case. Your case generated much controversy. Some people agreed with the verdict and others disagreed. Find sources from each side. Check books, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet. Find the titles of any films that have been made based on your case.
- Write a report. Tell about the trial, any appeals, and the aftermath of the trial. Answer each of the following questions in detail. If the question calls for an opinion, explain the reasons for your opinion fully.
- What was the case about?
- What kind of publicity did it receive? Why did it generate so much publicity? What did the judge do to ensure a fair trial? Do you think this was enough?
- What was the verdict in the trial? Why do you think the jury reached this verdict? Do you agree with it? [Note: Some cases had more than one trial. Be sure to include information on all trials and appeals.]
- Include an annotated bibliography, listing your sources and commenting on the reliability of each.
- Be prepared to present your report in an interesting way to the whole class.
F is for FOCUS. Before you go looking for information, write down exactly what you are looking for. This will help you guide yourself through the vast ocean of information. It will also help when you ask a reference librarian for help, when you do searches on the Internet, and when you interview experts.
I is for INTERNET. Use keywords for looking on a search engine, like Hotbot (www.hotbot.com), or use an Internet catalog like Yahoo (www.yahoo.com), which allows you to keep narrowing down your subject until you find what you want. Search engines will return many hits, most of them useless. If you find nothing after looking at 20 hits, try different keywords. All Internet search engines and catalogs have pages giving search tips. Take a few minutes and study them. You’ll save time in the long run. When you find a good site, check its reliability. In general, the most reliable sites are run by the media and government. We have listed useful links on the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s Web site (www.crf-usa.org.)
L is for LIBRARY. This should be your major resource. Ask the reference librarian to point you in the right direction. Look for different kinds of sources, e.g., encyclopedias, books, magazine and newspaper articles. And if your subject is controversial, get different viewpoints. Your library will probably have separate computer catalogs for books and periodicals. When you find a relevant book or article in a catalog, the catalog will list additional subject headings. Search under these headings as well.
T is for TAKE NOTES. Put them in your own words. Write clearly and on one side of the paper only. Use a spiral notebook or note cards. Note cards are useful if you’re doing a research paper because you can put one point on each card and sort the cards point by point. If you use a notebook, leave wide margins so you can add notations.
E is for EXPERTS. In your research, keep track of the names of people and organizations interested in your topic. These can be the authors of books and magazine articles, reporters, government officials, and non-profit groups. On the Internet, you can search for organizations, and one site–Ask an Expert (www.askanexpert.com)–lets you send e-mail to experts in various fields who will respond to questions. You can also find organizations in Gale’s Encyclopedia of Associations (at libraries) and in your local phone book. If you find an expert, write the person or organization a polite note with two or three questions you want answered. If the expert is local, call and try to set up a brief interview. Why will experts talk with you? Because they’re interested in the subject. If you show an interest, they likely will respond.
R is for RECORD. Write down each of your sources. Keep track of where you’ve looked, even dead ends. That will keep you from unwittingly searching the same place twice.
Reprinted with permission of Constitutional Rights Foundation, 601 S. Kingsley Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90005. (243) 487-5590. www.crf-usa.org
Legal Thriller Book Review
by JoEllen Ambrose
Assignment: To read a novel that is law-related in theme, often called a “courtroom thriller,” OR read a nonfiction book describing a famous lawyer, judge, or particular aspect of the legal system, OR research and write a report about an infamous trial in American history. You choose what interests you most. Book choices must be pre-approved by teacher after filling out the form on the back of the sheet and showing the book to teacher on a set date. Page guidelines: 300 pages or more for an A, 200 pages or more for a B, 100 pages or more for a C.
Write a book review that reveals the plot but also explains legal concepts presented in the book. If your book is also a movie, you are asked to watch the movie and in your review highlight key differences. Also be prepared to discuss the book in class small groups.
All books must be checked by teacher (for legal relevance) by (date). Book reviews or reports are due and Book Club discussion groups will be during class on (date).
Bernhardt, William. Naked Justice.
Bohjalian, Christopher A. Midwives: a Novel.
Brandon, Jay. Defiance County.
Cecil, Henry. Settled Out of Court.
Connelly, Michael. The Concrete Blonde.
Coughlin, William. Shadow of a Doubt.
Dewlen, Al. Twilight of Honor.
Downing, Warwick. The Water Cure.
Dreiser, Theodore. An American Tragedy.
Fish, Robert L. with Henry Rothblatt. A Handy Death.
Friedman, Philip. Inadmissible Evidence, Reasonable Doubt.
Gardner, Eric Stanley. The Case of the Careless Kitten.
Grisham, John. Time to Kill, The Client, The Rainmaker, Runaway Jury, The Chamber, and The Street Lawyer.
Hare, Cyril. Tragedy at Law.
Harr, Jonathan. A Civil Action.
Harrington, William. Which the Justice? Which the Thief?
Hunter, Evan. The Paper Dragon.
Levin, Meyer. Compulsion.
Lustgarten, Edgar. A Case to Answer (One More Unfortunate).
Martini, Steven. Compelling Evidence, Prime Witness.
Patterson, Richard North. Degree of Guilt.
Pate, Alexs. Amistad.
Prejean, Sister Helen. Dead Man Walking.
Queen, Ellery. The Glass Village.
Travor, Robert. Anatomy of a Murder.
Turow, Scott. Presumed Innocent.
Werth, Barry. Damages.
Wheat, Carolyn. Mean Streak.
Support Materials: Workshop 8: Rights and Responsibilities of Students
Supplemental document for educators
Workshop 1 Freedom of Religion
Ninth-grade civics teacher Kristen Borges involves her students at Southwest High School in Minnesota in a simulation of a U.S. Supreme Court hearing on a First Amendment case. Students assume the roles of Supreme Court justices, attorneys for the school district, and attorneys for the families. They first work in groups to prepare for the hearing, then participate in the hearing, and finally, debrief their experiences and write short papers stating their positions on the case. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include questioning strategies and mock trials.
Workshop 2 Electoral Politics
This program shows the conclusion of a 12-week civic engagement unit developed by the national Student Voices program. José Velazquez's 12th-grade students at University High School in New Jersey divide into small groups to brainstorm and research community issues, prioritize the issues on the basis of what they have learned, present their findings to the class both orally and through a visual presentation, and develop a whole-class consensus on a youth agenda that they present to the mayoral candidates in a televised question-and-answer forum. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include issue identification and consensus building.
Workshop 3 Public Policy and the Federal Budget
Leslie Martin's ninth-graders at West Forsyth High School in North Carolina create, present, revise, and defend a federal budget, and then reflect on what they have learned. After assuming the roles of the President and his or her advisors to create a federal budget, students are introduced to the actual 2001 federal budget, and in a whole-class discussion, discuss some key concepts involved in creating it. Next, students return to cooperative learning groups, revise their budgets based on what they learned, present their revised budgets, and simulate a Congressional hearing. This lesson highlights the integration of teacher-directed instruction with small-group work.
Workshop 4 Constitutional Convention
Matt Johnson teaches an AP Comparative Government class to seniors at Benjamin Banneker Senior High School in Washington, DC. In this lesson, his 12th-grade students create a constitution for a hypothetical country called Permistan. Matt Johnson uses this lesson to help students review for their final exam and the AP exam by having them draw on what they have learned during the semester about international governments. Students work in cooperative learning groups to discuss and debate issues relating to the executive and legislative branches of government. The lesson closes with a simulation of a constitutional convention. Simulation is the primary methodology highlighted in this lesson.
Workshop 5 Patriotism and Foreign Policy
The students in this program are seniors at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a public magnet school in Washington, DC. In this lesson, U.S. government teacher Alice Chandler has her students create a Museum of Patriotism and Foreign Policy. The lesson alternates between whole-class discussion and small-group committee work as students create a gallery for the museum using their respective arts concentration as the medium. The lesson concludes with students presenting their gallery contributions in dance, music, theatrical performances, and visual presentations, along with rationales for their selections. This lesson highlights small-group work as a constructivist methodology.
Workshop 6 Civic Engagement
This program shows a group of 11th- and 12th-grade students at Anoka High School in Minnesota engaging in service learning — a requirement for graduation. In this human geography class taught by Bill Mittlefehldt, students work in teams to define a project, choose and meet with a community partner who can help educate them about the issue and its current status, conduct further research, and present the problem and a proposed solution first to their peers, and then to a special session of the Anoka City Council. The primary methodology presented in this lesson is service learning.
Workshop 7 Controversial Public Policy Issues
In this 12th-grade law class at Champlin Park High School in Minnesota, JoEllen Ambrose engages students in a structured discussion of a highly controversial issue — racial profiling — and connects student learning both to their study of due process in constitutional law and police procedure in criminal law. Students begin by completing an opinion poll, which they discuss as a group. Students are then put into pairs in which they conduct research on the topic. Next, students participate in a debate in which each partnership argues both sides of the issue. A debriefing discussion completes the lesson. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include role playing and structured academic controversy.
Workshop 8 Rights and Responsibilities of Students
Students in Matt Johnson's 12th-grade law course at Benjamin Banneker Senior High School in Washington, DC, engage in a culminating activity to help them review and apply what they have learned. Students write and distribute one-page briefs of Supreme Court cases they have studied. Next, students are assigned to small groups and given hypothetical cases related to student rights cases from the Supreme Court's 2001-2002 term. Students prepare their cases and present them to the Justices. Justices deliberate and present majority and dissenting opinions, after which the class discusses both the process and the disposition of the cases. This lesson highlights the use of case studies for synthesis and analysis.
Supporting Materials Introduction: Making Civics Real
Supplemental material for educators/facilitators