Olivia Harris cross examines witness Claire Shannan during the mock trial performed by sEnglish II students at Scotland County R-I High School. The project was based on Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible.

Olivia Harris cross examines witness Claire Shannan during the mock trial performed by sEnglish II students at Scotland County R-I High School. The project was based on Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible.

by Christina Olakowski

English II students at Scotland County High School were able to put their argumentative skills to use in a mock trial during the week of April 8th. The trial, which was based off Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, required students to get into full performance mode and defend the reputation of their client.

“Being able to ‘live’ The Crucible made it a lot of fun,” Natalie Miller, English II trial participant stated.

Students were asked to select a final suspect to accuse of causing chaos that ultimately led to the Salem Witch Trials. The chaos-causing suspect list was quickly narrowed to two: plaintiff, Abigail Williams, and the defendant, John Proctor.

Students chose to side with the prosecution or defense and then selected one of the courtroom roles: 2 bailiffs, 2 witnesses, 6 lawyers, 1 plaintiff, and 1 defendant. Each position required a critical look at the play, a persuasive technique, and a familiarity with the real-life role of the chosen position.

“{the trial} was an awesome way to help us get a piece of the real world and help us connect to the book on a different level,”  English II student, Chelsi Holton, said.

On trial day, the library was transformed into a courtroom. The in-school courtroom included a witness stand, a bailiff’s stool, and separate tables for the opposing parties. Near the side of the room, Publications students filled the jury table. The honorable guest-judge, Mr. Brent Bondurant, Guidance Counselor, sat at the front of the room behind a large podium equipped with a gavel, a long wig, and a script.

“The students’ abilities to manipulate the words and actions kept me on the edge of my seat – especially during cross examinations.  I was beyond impressed with it all!” said English II teacher, Christina Olakowski.

There were many serious moments in the courtroom. All eyes were on the witness stand and the only sound was the rustling of papers. The intensity in the courtroom reflected the desire of all students to win the case.

There were a total of four trials that spanned over three days. In the end, the plaintiff and defendant both won two of the four cases. Although each case revolved around the same four-act play, each presentation, argument, and response was unique.