Gardendale Classical Conversation Homeschoolers had their day in court this month as they joined classes throughout the country in holding mock trials. “Lawyers” on both sides argued in front of Judge Gomany in the Gardendale municipal courtroom.
Gardendale Mayor Stan Hogeland opened the event with a prayer and commented on how much this event has grown over the years.
Mock trial has long been an extracurricular staple of prep schools—and now is a fixture in homeschool communities. Students participate in rehearsed courtroom trials to learn about the legal system in a competitive manner. CC, the world’s largest classical homeschool organization, uses mock trial competition to teach skills in research, grammar, writing, rhetoric, public speaking, debate and drama.
This year’s CC mock trial is a first-degree murder case involving a wife who shot her attorney husband multiple times in the living room of their home after learning that he planned to leave her.
The Gardendale defense team of Brooklyn Brown, Rae Cato and Nyah Jordan defended the wife charged with murder (portrayed by Elianna Sanders) with the help of a knowledgeable psychologist (portrayed by Madison Canant). They argued to her innocence on theories such as self-defense, and temporary insanity due to battered wife syndrome. They completed the entire trial against the opposing team.
After a brief intermission, the Gardendale students switch to the prosecution. Gardendale’s prosecution team of Madison Canant, Elianna Sanders and Selena Smith had plenty of physical evidence as well as testimonies from the housekeeper (portrayed by Brooklyn Brown), the police detective (portrayed by Rae Cato) and the coroner (portrayed by Nyah Jordan).
Each team used witness statements, law enforcement reports, pertinent state laws and evidence exhibits to support their case. Adult volunteers are recruited to serve as the jury.
These eighth-grade students have spent the entire spring semester experiencing all three stages of the classical model of education: grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. They spent weeks learning the facts of the case and many more weeks wrestling with those facts, trying to determine what facts were missing, finding errors in logic and building cases both for and against the defendant.
Gardendale faced off against a combined team from Oakmont (Hoover) and McCalla to a packed courtroom. Jurors agreed that the students did an amazing job presenting their cases and arguing for their clients. But in the end the verdict was guilty for both trials.