Hate Crimes Education Trial – Information For Teachers

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Volunteer lawyers presenting to a group of students.

 

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A letter from a student at Slavens School in Denver who participated in the presentation.

Since 1992, 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 presentation, small discussion groups of students become “juries” to discuss the issues presented and, with the assistance of a volunteer 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. You can view the script here.    For additional information, see the Frequently Asked Questions below.

 

Request a Presentation

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Attorneys begin “jury selection” or “voir dire.”

To bring a presentation to your school or organization, please complete the form below. If you’re looking for more information, please see Frequently Asked Questions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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A “prosecutor” presents her case to student jurors.

What is the Colorado Lawyers Committee?
The Colorado Lawyers Committee started in 1978, and is a group of 59 Colorado law firms committed to improving conditions for children and the underprivileged. The lawyers and others who donate their time through the Lawyers Committee work for systemic change through advocacy, negotiation, litigation, and education. Read more about us. 

Who performs the presentation?
Lawyers from our 59 contributing firms, law students, and others volunteer their time to present the fictional trial.

How much does the presentation cost?
It’s free. The program is presented at no cost to schools, community groups and others.

Which students may participate?
Students in Grades 6 and up may participate. The presentation contains sensitive material—including racial slurs—so it is not recommended for students below sixth grade. Presentations are also available for colleges, universities, and community groups.

In what schools can the fictional trial be presented?
The Hate Crimes Education Task Force will offer the presentation at any school or organization throughout the State of Colorado that requests it. Download a flyer for teachers here.

How do I schedule a presentation?
Fill out the Request a Presentation form above.

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Another letter from a Slavens School participant.

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 undisputed facts:  5-7 minutes
Prosecutor Closing Argument:  11-12 minutes
Defense Closing Argument:  15 minutes
Prosecutor Rebuttal Closing:  3-4 minutes
Jury Deliberations (with trained facilitator):  until 15-20 minutes remain
Presentation of verdicts and closing remarks: 20-30 minutes

How many students can participate?
Fifty 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.

Can I look at a script of the trial?
Yes! You can view the script here.

What do students do?
Students will act as jurors in the fictional trial and deliberate on the four counts on which the defendant, Patrick Witten, is charged. After the closing arguments, students break into smaller jury groups and use the Jury Instructions to decide the verdicts for each of the four counts.  A volunteer facilitator helps with the process, from picking a foreperson to explaining aspects of trial. After deliberations, students reconvene to discuss lessons learned.

What sensitive material is included in the trial?
The trial includes some offensive language, including racial 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.

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