MOUNT VERNON — Jurors in Skagit County Superior Court on Friday had one not-so-simple question to answer: Did the fictional Barbara Barrett commit murder when she shot her husband five times, or was it self-defense?
The arguments were presented to the adult volunteer-jurors by students in the Anacortes and Lynnwood Classical Conversations Challenge B home school program.
“They really don’t know (what’s going to happen) until they get here,” teacher Amy Weisz said.
For about an hour a week for the past 15 weeks the students in the Anacortes and Lynnwood programs have been preparing an hour-long mock trial to defend the fictional Barrett. They also prepared a mock trial to prosecute her.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there’s no other entrance to this house, so how can that be?” student Jacob Weisz said of a witness’ testimony that she saw Barrett enter through a private door in the house before shooting her husband.
The mock trial is a capstone project for the middle-school-age students. It teaches them about law, the Constitution, public speaking and how to present themselves.
“Doing this really taps into a lot of skills that are important for life,” said Skagit County Superior Court Judge Laura Riquelme, who presided over the fictional case. “I think this is a really excellent learning opportunity.”
Riquelme said this was the third such mock trial she had presided over.
With just an outline of the case to go off of, the students had to present their own arguments, learn about objections and when to use them, and write their closing statements.
They were then scored by the “jurors” and Riquelme, Weisz said.
“A lot of people think that the law is boring and not creative,” Riquelme said. “All of you have created these trials.”