STP 15: Chemistry and Crime

Mock Trial Assignment, Winter 2000

Students will be split into groups for mock trials in class on Friday, January 14. At that time, we will discuss possible cases and student roles in the cases. The goal for this assignment is for each student to demonstrate their understanding of evidence collection or analysis, including how the methods work and what their limitations are. Attorneys should be generally familiar with all techniques in the case, focusing on the limitations of the methods.

Acceptable roles include: defense attorney, prosecuting attorney, and expert witnesses. The role of judge is a difficult one to effectively accomplish the goals of this assignment; please talk to me for guidelines if your group wants to have one studentís main role be the judge.

It is unacceptable for a studentís main role to be an eyewitness, the victim, or the accused. You may choose to have some students play more than one role, so that you may have a judge, a victim, and the accused.

You may find that you need to figure out how the evidence discussed in the case was analyzed, because that information may not be readily available. You may also find that you need to fabricate some of the evidence so that there will be enough physical evidence to use as many experts as you have students participating in your group.

In your paper, you must cite whatever references you consult in learning about the case you choose, even if you change the evidence. You will also need to cite your textbook or other sources you consult to find details about the analytical methods used.

The topic for each case should be chosen by the students in the group involved, and each topic must be okayed by the instructor. Your topics should be chosen by Friday, January 21. There are a few books on reserve in the library that you may find useful in choosing a case to cover.

The paper (20% of your course grade) is due at the beginning of class on Monday, February 7. Your oral presentation to the class (15% of your course grade) will be on the same topic as your paper. You will receive individual grades for your presentations and papers.

Each group presentation should last 50-60 minutes. Everyone in the group will be penalized if your presentation is too short OR too long. Your oral presentations will be evaluated based on the correctness of the science described as well as your presentation skills. You should NOT read your part of the presentation, but using note cards is acceptable.

Every student must attend every mock trial. At the end of each trial, students in the "jury" will turn in individual lists of strengths and weaknesses for the trial. Students in the presenting group will also make a short list of comments about problems or successes encountered while working in their group. Presentation grades will be based in part on the comments of your classmates.

The following cases have been covered in previous years and are not acceptable choices: Leopold and Loeb case, Martin Luther King assassination, murder of Mary Meyer, Ruth Snyder-Judd Gray case, Leon Harris case, Jeremy Bamber case, Jon Benet Ramsey murder, VANPAC bombing case, Polly Klaas murder, Richard Ramirez case, Lizzie Borden case, Ted Bundy case, Jasper case, Menendez brothers case.