Warner Attorney Coaches Mock Trial Project that Hears Testimony from Malcolm X, Emmett Till, Oprah Winfrey to Settle Decades-old Question
The witnesses were compelling: Malcolm X, Emmett Till, Oprah Winfrey and others, each called to testify in a lawsuit asking “Is the American dream alive or dead?” The recent mock trial was led by students from Forest Hills Northern High School who were coached by Brian Masternak, a litigator and partner with Warner Norcross + Judd LLP.
Masternak worked to prepare the class of 10th graders, who worked for eight weeks to try the case that was heard by student-jurors in Kent County’s 63rd District Court. The project-based class, which was profiled recently by School News Network, enabled the students to sharpen their research, public speaking and critical thinking skills as they worked collaboratively to review evidence, question witnesses and build their case.
“So much of school can be abstract,” Masternak told students in a presentation in advance of the mock trial. “When learning is aligned to real life, it is practical. Whatever you do in the future, the skills are still there.”
The prosecution and defense spent two hours building their cases before turning over the matter for jury deliberations. Masternak’s child, Spencer, delivered the verdict in favor of the prosecution: “The American dream is dead.”
Forest Hills Northern history teacher Sara Irwin told School News Network: “In U.S. history, we often talk about the ideals of our nation, including opportunity. While our nation has created a lot of opportunity for a lot of people, mistakes have also been made. We then get to use the skills they work on in English to apply this in the trial.”
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