HOUSTON — What happens when the plantiff is a monster created by a mad scientist and the defendant is the demented scientist?
Houston High School seniors discovered the answer to that question when they held a mock trial over the book, “Frankenstein,” by Mary Shelley.
On Feb. 22, Andrea Wintrow’s British Literature class used Mary Shelly’s novel and took a twist and did a court case on it. Wintrow does this event annually and incorporates community members and school officials to participate as jury members.
“Deliberation was fun and all of us worked through the issues and testimonies,” said Hardin-Houston Local Schools Superintendent Larry Claypool.
“It’s remarkable to watch the students come up with their own ideas and put them into action. They always impress me with their take on the situation and how they structure their case. Most of all, the way they rise to the challenge of collaborating and thinking on their feet during the actual trial is incredible,” Wintrow said.
“It was great fun to see our students use such creative thinking while enacting their prosecution/defense out-of-the-box positions in a role play event of this nature. Really enjoyable,” Claypool added.
The plaintiff, the unnamed monster, was played by Bryce Norris and his lawyers were Kaytlyn Riffell and Celeste Louise Stewart. They called to the stand the monster, Old man de Lacey, played by Amber Evans, and an expert witness on abandonment and neglect was played by Brandon Wray.
The monster sued his creator for child abandonment, neglect and breach of duty.
The defense included Victor Frankenstein, represented by Kaitlyn Ellison, the lawyers Devyn Ostrander and Allie Voisard, as well as their witnesses, Robert Walton, played by Meagan Hasselbeck, Henry Clerval, played by Ashley Fogt, and an expert witness on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), played by Caity Falls.
They claimed Victor’s PTSD made him incapable of caring for his creation and accused the plaintiff of wrongful death.
After dividing into these two teams, students assembled a case for their side, determining the charges they would file and the witnesses they would call to the stand to support their case.
Stewart described the preparation: “Mrs. Wintrow allowed the students to work quite freely in assembling a case, making it more of a dramatic experience for them. They also worked on collecting evidence to help their claims, arranging questions to ask their witnesses and working on cross-examination of the other team’s witnesses.”
While both teams were required to supply a witness list and claims, neither side heard the other’s arguments until the day of the trial.
“All in all, the trial went smoothly though it was quite passion-filled,” said Stewart. “The students did a wonderful job of questioning and cross examining the witnesses.”
A special jury of volunteers were called on to hear the case. The jury included members school board members Bill Clark and Jason Shaffer, as well as Claypool and five Sidney Rotary Club members: Michele Mumford, Chad Gessler, Justin Griffis, Bryson Long and Deb Hovestreydt. Deputy Bill Booth acted as bailiff for the court.
Students were permitted to listen to the deliberation in order to analyze how they might have strengthened their cases.
In the end, the plaintiff (Monster) showed no remorse for the murders he had committed and was found guilty of wrongful death. However, the jury found his lack of remorse a direct consequence of being abandoned, so the monster also won his case.
As Stewart said, “At the end of the day, Mrs. Wintrow’s British Literature class had a fantastic time preparing for and putting on their mock trial.”
And the case rests — until next year.