“All rise for the jury,” the bailiff intoned Thursday morning as the 10 jury members filed in from its deliberations.
Judge Taylor Reynolds asked the foreman to read the verdict.
Four trials, four juries, four defendants.
That wasn’t the case Wednesday, however.
“Yesterday, they called me and him not guilty, and then today I guess we’re guilty,” Karsen Flaska said of himself and Eduardo Maldonado, who were on trial for their respective roles in the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party.
Lincoln Elementary School fifth graders in Reynolds’ two social studies classes conducted mock trials on the historical events. The students rehearsed earlier in the week, but Thursday was the culmination of three weeks of research, study and preparation, conducted in front of many of the students’ parents. In fact, the trials had to be moved from Reynolds' classroom to the larger art room to accommodate all the parents who attended.
“I could not be more proud of these kids. They worked so hard and it really showed through with their opening statements and the questions that they had and the kids with their witness statements, all of those were pretty strong,” Reynolds said afterward.
Her two social studies classes each conducted a trial for each case, with students switching roles among the jury, the prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, witnesses, the plaintiff, defendant and bailiff.
Several of the students, especially those portraying attorneys — even dressed the part, changing into dresses or suits and ties for the exercise.
The students were familiar with the American Revolution from learning about it in fourth grade.
“This was just a way to include public speaking and give them a taste of what the court would look like, just something different to help them remember more than just reading out of the book,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds found the idea and materials for the mock trials on Teachers Pay Teachers, a website where teachers buy and sell original classroom materials. The resources included worksheets for the students explaining courtroom procedures examples of opening and closing statements and space for the student attorneys to write their questions.
Reynolds said she walked the students through some of the information, but most of the research and preparation was done by the students themselves.
“This group is a very independent group, and they’re very good at getting things done,” she said.
“They blew me away.”
Parents were impressed, too.
“He did great, and it was a thoughtful experience for the kids,” Travis Taggart said of his son, Jesse, who was a defense attorney in his class’ Boston Tea Party trial and a jury member for the Boston Massacre trial.
"He's been talking about being a lawyer for the last few weeks," Travis said.
Amara Barber said her daughter, Brooklyn, insisted they go shopping for her role as a defense attorney in her class’ trial on the Boston Massacre.
“All we had were short dresses, and it’s cold out,” Amara Barber said.
She said Brooklyn and her partner as defense attorney, Lily Butler, FaceTimed each other at home as they worked on the project.
“They did excellent,” said Amara, who was involved in debate when she was in high school and appreciated the public speaking aspect of the lesson.
“She auditioned to be a defense attorney, and she was really excited when she got the part,” she said.
The students agreed the project took a lot of work, but they learned much, too.
Logan Chambers learned “how to speak in front of a big crowd,” he said. He portrayed a witness to the Boston Tea Party and was on the jury for the Boston Massacre case.
“We definitely learned more about the way the courtroom works,” Lily said. “People have to work really hard.”
Reynolds said she will continue the project for her classes next year.
“They’re going to remember this 10 years down the road compared to reading something out of a book,” she said.
“And you never know, one of these kids might grow up to be a lawyer.”