School of Law calls Frankenstein to the stand

The school's Historical and Theatrical Trial Society produced the mock trial.
Rolf, played by Jacob Weston is questioned on stage as a witness during the Trial of Frankenstein on Thursday night at Jesse Auditorium. The School of Law’s Historical and Theatrical Trial Society presented the event.

On Thursday, the School of Law gave students, faculty and the community the chance to see the fabled Dr. Victor Frankenstein in a mock trial in Jesse Auditorium.

With their production of “Creating Life and Death: The Trial of Dr. Victor Frankenstein,” the School of Law’s Historical and Theatrical Trial Society put Dr. Frankenstein on the stand to question his responsibility in his assistant Igor’s death.

HATTS Assistant Trial Director Megan Dittmann said Stephen Easton, a former professor at the School of Law, came up with the idea to host mock trials of famous historical figures and characters. She said he knew many citizens do not ever get a chance to attend judicial trials, and he wanted to bring the trial to the public stage and make it more applicable to the average citizen.

In the original story of Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein’s super-human “creation” causes Igor’s death. The question about whether Frankenstein is at fault has endlessly perplexed people. The HATTS group planned to answer this question.

HATTS Writing Director Sharon Jones said they tried to find a figure who the audience would be familiar with and would be interesting to watch in trial.

“They should have a rough sense of what's going on,” Dittmann said. “Then we can focus a little more on the concept of the trial.”

The student attorneys were given “fact patterns” about the defendant, which include only basic and background information. They then had to formulate a case and questions—the trials are never scripted—and execute a real trial.

“We don't know what the outcome is until the jury makes a decision,” Dittmann said. “It's very much like a real trial.”

Dittman said in the past few years, the mock trials’ audiences have drawn in roughly 200 to 400 students, professors and community members.

Last year, there were about 500 audience members at a trial, Jones said. She said this shows how good of a response the community has taken to the event.

Freshman Patrick Stark said he came to the trial out of interest in attending law school. His professor encouraged him and other students to attend the event.

“I did a mock trial my sophomore year in high school,” Stark said. “So I thought I’d like to try it out in real life.”

After three hours of debate, cross-examinations and heavy deliberation, the jury charged Dr. Frankenstein with negligence, denied the killing of “the Creature,” and was undecided on whether to prevent him from continuing to practice science.

HATTS’ previous trials have included Lewis and Clark’s theft of a Native America canoe, Al Capone and his role in the Valentine’s Day Massacre and Missouri Gov. Thomas Crittenden’s bounty on the outlaw Jesse James, according to the School of Law’s website.

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