Question: Did He Do It? This fall semester a group of Advanced UPP students had to prove or disprove this question. Two of Ms. Lorie Mattox’s advanced Oral Communication classes listened to the podcast, Serial, Season 1, about a young man, Adnan Syed, convicted of murder in 2000. At the time of his conviction, the accused and other witnesses were the same age as our IUGB students. In the podcast, a reporter, Sarah Koenig, reviewed all the case files, interview transcripts, evidence logs, and timelines thirteen years after Adnan’s conviction. In that time many questions had arisen about how his case and trial were presented. Ms. Koenig constantly wondered if she should would ever be able to answer the question, did Adnan really do it?
For eight weeks, our UPP students listened to episodes over the weekend and discussed the issues during class. In-class discussions included how reliable is your memory, are you a bad person because you smoke, how does one piece of evidence help and hurt the accused, and the power of relationships. In-class activities included making multiple timelines, people and character maps, mapping cell phone calls, and comparing multiple stories of a selected time frame. All these materials eventually developed the details for a mock trial.
UPP students became prosecution or defense lawyers, the accused, witnesses, judges or a bailiff. The lawyers developed their opening statements, direct questions, cross-examination questions and closing arguments. Witnesses had to memorize their stories and details that could come up during either questioning times. The judges and bailiff had to learn courtroom protocol and how to work with the jury. The jury, university students from Dr. Christian Seya’s Introduction to American Government class, had the toughest job. They had to listen to the witnesses and evidence our UPP students presented, and make their own decision, did Adnan do it? At the end of the trial, the jury’s verdict was not guilty.
Both the UPP students and the university students in the jury had a great experience. Both groups mentioned how difficult it was to make a strong decision with so much conflicting evidence. They related well to Sarah Koenig in constantly wondering if Adnan did or didn’t commit this murder. Both the prosecution and defense represented their side of the argument well, but the jury said it came down to what could not be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Hopefully these types of activities and events strengthened our students’ critical thinking skills and better prepare them for university and beyond.
Special thanks go to Dr. Christian Seya for preparing his University students to serve as jury members, Ms. Julie Reimer and the UPP faculty for supporting this type of out-of-the-box activity, and especially Dr. Keino Campbell for answering all the legal questions. Thanks also to the Media Club, who created an impressive promotional video for the event. The video was shown in the IUGB dining room during meals to encourage participation. We couldn’t have done any of this without each of you!!