Deciding by Group: You Are the Jury

From Scholastic 

This three-part worksheet, suitable for use with an older primary, middle or high-school audience, asks students to review information about a criminal court case and work together to reach a conclusion (verdict) based on the facts presented. 

Students are encouraged to work together in groups of 12 — modeling the size of an actual jury — to make their decision and then they are prompted to discuss how they came to make their decision as a group.  There also is a brief sidebar description of the principle of "Reasonable Doubt."  

How do you use it?

This document could be mined for information for judges or other presenters to use in lecture, if the presenter wanted to walk students through the deliberative jury decision process.  This specific case study could be used, or a judge could identify a real case and use the questions and discussion format laid out here to introduce the concept of critical thinking on the part of a jury

Alternatively, teachers could also work with students on this exercise either prior to a judge coming into talk or after a judge has left.  It would work either as a good introduction to a presentation on juries or a strong follow up for the teacher to use.

Who is the audience?

This resource is informative and educational, and tailored toward the strengths of children at an mid-primary through high-school level.  Even older primary-school students could be led through the hypothetical case and directed in their decision-making process, while older students could be left to work on their own to arrive at a verdict, and then their critical-thinking process could be evaluated through a question-and-answer discussion.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. A Conversation on the Constitution: Jury Service  Videos and lesson plan from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H, A)
  2. Civil Mock Trials  Case study/mock trial from Street Law (H, A)
  3. Considering the Constitution  Document from Scholastic (P, M, H) 
  4. Court Shorts: Jury Service  Video from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (M, H, A)
  5. Criminal Mock Trials  Case study/mock trial from Street Law (H, A)
  6. Juror Selection  Document from Scholastic (M, H) 
  7. Pathways to the Bench  Videos from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H)
  8. Quiz #3: Civil Cases  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
  9. Quiz #4: Criminal Cases  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
  10. Texting While Driving  Case study/mock trial from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H, A)
  11. Trial Court 'Go Fish'  Game from iCivics (P, M)

Additional Recommended Resources Off-Site Links

  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.