For Teachers

Since 1993, Colorado Lawyers Committee volunteers have presented trials based on a fictional case arising from a violation of Colorado’s hate/bias crimes statute (formerly the Ethnic Intimidation Statute). At the conclusion of the trial, small discussion groups of students become “juries” to discuss the issues presented and, with the assistance of an adult facilitator, reach a verdict. The students become very engaged in discussing diversity in their community and the value of preventing the spread of racial slurs and hateful actions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Colorado Lawyers Committee?
The Colorado Lawyers Committee started in 1979, and is a group of over 50 law firms in the Denver area committed to improving conditions for children and the underprivileged by donating their time and money to give free legal work to groups of people.Read more about us.

How much does it cost?
The trial is presented at no cost. A generous grant from the Qwest Foundation covers the travel expenses of volunteers.

Which students may participate?
Students from Grades 6 to 12 may participate. The trial contains sensitive material—including racial slurs—so it should not be presented to any students younger than sixth grade.

In what schools can the trial be presented?
The Hate Crimes Education Task Force will present the mock trial at any school.

How do I set one up at my school?
Fill out the signup form on this page.

The Trial Itself

How long does it take?
A minimum 120-minute block of uninterrupted time gives the students the best experience. We have worked within shorter time frames by cutting some of the material or going over it quickly (this is not preferred, but is doable). The trial generally presents best using this schedule of events:

Opening Remarks: 5-7 minutes
Prosecutor Voir Dire: 15 minutes
Defense Voir Dire: 15 minutes
Judge gives jurors the Oath: 2-3 minutes
Judge reads The Evidence: 5-7 minutes
Prosecutor Closing Argument: 11-12 minutes
Defense Closing Argument: 15 minutes
Prosecutor Rebuttal Closing: 3-4 minutes
Jury Deliberations: until 15-20 minutes remain
The Verdicts: the remaining 15-20 minutes (receiving the verdicts and discussing lessons learned)

How many students can participate?
50 students is the “soft” maximum number of students per trial. When numbers start to exceed 50 students, it is best to schedule two different trials. We have been able to find volunteers to staff trials consecutively on the same day, concurrently on the same day, and on different days. 

Is the trial scripted?
Yes! You can view the script here.

What will students do?
Students will act as jurors in the case and deliberate on the four counts that Patrick Witten is charged. After the closing arguments, students break into smaller jury groups and use the Jury Instructions to decide the verdicts on all four counts. A volunteer will help with the process, from picking a leader of the jury who will announce their verdicts (a foreperson) to explaining aspects of trial.

What sensitive material is included in the trial?
The trial includes some offensive language, including racist slurs. We do not use these words because we think they are acceptable; we need to use them in the trial to make it more realistic and to illustrate what might be a hate crime.