‘Twas the Murder Trial Before Christmas, and All Through the Court …

Saturday, January 09, 2021 - By: Mr Neil Bryant

As a way of initiating Christmas lightheartedness, this blog will be written largely employing appropriately-placed euphemisms.

Every year in December, students from the two law classes engage in the highlight event of the term – the mock trial. Ironically hardly ever the subject of mock-ery, students spend weeks learning all they can about characters and circumstances conjured up in a complete fiction that their teacher wrote, as a way of consolidating concepts learned in class since early September.

This year’s unwilling suspension of belief was based on a case of a person who admitted to murdering his friend, but defense counsel swears up and down that he was not aware of the act being morally wrong at the time, as he was in a poorly-defined, mentally-ill state. Each year, many suspects in many rule-of-law-cherishing countries dodge the maximum sentence associated with first degree (planned and premeditated) murder by such claims. Where the DSM-5 (the most up-to-date Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) lists over 100 conditions associated with mental illness, the law has a hard time keeping up with the implications of each sub-category vis-a-vis criminal acts.

Luca “No, we can’t just look the other way!” P showed how keen he was to examine and cross examine many of the witnesses subpoenaed by Crown counsel, although Anthony “I’m sure I heard noises in the hallway”, with his ‘deafness’ in one ear proved particularly challenging to depose. Siri “My American accent is supposed to make me seem edgy” W affected a humorous character with very quick and believable answers that were hard to gainsay. Gabi “I think there’s a squirrel in the tomatoes” C’s redirection after 144 hours of counselling of the accused was more than enough to convince even Leo “Don’t let the kilt sidetrack your examination answers” K’s constant barrage of accusatory questions.

Eamon “If you can’t convince them, confuse ‘em” R in the cross-examination of the main suspect, Damian “You shouldn’t judge people if you don’t have a law degree” B was keen to extend the evening by claiming that incessant ringing of doorbells in his apartment building was hardly good rationale for shooting his houseguest. McCoy “Am I in a court of law, or a Hunger Games sequel?” as the judge, did his best to hold the entire process together for the almost three-hour ordeal, clarifying the forensic policeman, on objection, was “Fully qualified to testify as to the fluid dynamics of blood”, as a means to determine time of death.

Lucinda “Watch your terminological inexactitudes!” G will likely be long in recovery as Chiara “I’m tugging the buttons on everything you introduce” L and Caiden “Let’s gnaw this chicken wing all night if we have to” T’s clashing of swords and sparing use of evidence would have kept us in session past 10pm without her frequently pointed albeit exasperated direction to get to the point.

Special thanks to the more than twenty former Brentwood Law Studies students who volunteered their evening as jurors in both court rooms. Both forepersons, Michael “Don’t try to BS me, I took Bryant’s class last year” Wang ’20, and Madi “You’re doing fine. A little more perjury and you’ll be out of the woods” McReynolds ‘20 were able to speak to second-degree murder and manslaughter convictions, respectively.

Mr Neil Bryant

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