This week, I have a story from when I was 11 years old. I can't believe I waited this long to tell it to you. You can hear it on Strangerville this week, and I've included the text below.
Also, I'm supposed to remind you to go leave us a review on iTunes or your podcast app of choice, if you haven't already. The reviews help us exponentially. Really. Seriously. Even one extra review will make our day and put Meg into labor, which she wants. I'm not kidding.
This time in Strangerville, Meg and Eli discuss “the levels of Mormonism.” Meg agrees to let Eli deliver her baby. And an 11-year-old boy participates in a wild mock trial.Story:Mock Trial, by Eli McCannProduction by Eli McCann and Preg Walter
The O.J. Simpson trial happened in 1995. Anyone who was alive and cognizant then probably recalls that for the better part of that year, no one talked about anything other than the O.J. Simpson trial.
I was in 5th and 6th grades while it was going on, and the teachers of Jordan Ridge Elementary School had decided that the 5th and 6th graders of my town were the appropriate audience for this gruesome murder trial. And so, we spent large portions of our day, huddled around a small TV as my teachers carefully and periodically adjusted the antenna for better reception.
There is an explained gap in my public education, and that gap occurred from January 25 to October 3, 1995.
The verdict was read on October 3. I was was in the 6th grade by this point. The teachers gathered all of the 6th graders of Jordan Ridge Elementary School into a small classroom, where we sat on the floor around a television, in stunned silence as the jury entered the courtroom, verdict in hand.
We, the 6th graders of Jordan Ridge Elementary School, considered ourselves something of experts on O.J. Simpson's guilt, having spent the better part of the year investing time and emotion into the proceedings.
And so, when the "not guilty" verdict was read, pandemonium ensued. Things were thrown. Children were screaming. Melanie Nelson burst into tears. Mrs. Southwick screamed "LIAR" and "MURDERER" at the TV.
We spent the rest of the day drawing pictures of the crime scene as a part of extended "art time."
The very next week Mrs. Southwick announced that our class would be participating in a mock murder trial, with individual assignments to come.
I had decided, thanks to the time I spent consuming O.J. Simpson news, that I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up. This was mostly because I was a very dramatic child and the Simpson trial was the most dramatic thing with which I had been exposed in my 11 years.
So dramatic was I, that during this time I was regularly recording Days of Our Lives on VHS tapes so I could watch the show after school. My parents had already successfully raised two kids so don't feel too sad for them.
And so, determined to enter this noble profession and deploy my super powers of persuasion, I begged Mrs. Southwick to assign me to be the prosecutor in the case.
Mrs. Southwick obliged, likely because she didn't care and was still coming down from the Simpson trial. And the next day she gave me the assignment.
She assigned Tim Ipson to be the defense attorney. Six kids were made witnesses, three for each side. There was a bailiff. A judge. And about 45 members of the jury because public schools are terribly funded in Utah so there were about 6,000 kids in my class.
We had two weeks to prepare for trial.
The facts of the case were this: Mrs. Butters was an elderly woman, living alone, and baking most days. She had good health. That is, until one day when her son came to visit her and found her DEAD on her kitchen floor!
The prime suspect in the case was the mailman, whose name was, wait for it, Mr. Mailman.
(Side note: I just understood for the first time why Mrs. Butters liked to bake so much.)
As a part of my prosecutorial efforts, I was provided three witnesses:
1. A neighbor who overheard Mrs. Butters arguing with Mr. Mailman the day before her body was found.
2. An old friend of Mrs. Butters who was prepared to offer testimony that only a year before her murder, Mrs. Butters had developed something of a friendship with Mr. Mailman, to the point that SHE ADDED HIM TO HER WILL.
and 3. A medical examiner, who would testify that Mrs. Butters died of a pill overdose, and that Mr. Mailman had been prescribed the same pills that killed her only one month prior to her death!
WE WERE 11.
For their part, the defense team also had three witnesses:
1. Another neighbor who saw Mrs. Butters watering her flowers and looking perfectly healthy several hours after she argued with Mr. Mailman.
2. Dr. Pills, Mrs. Butters physician, who prescribed Mrs. Butters the same pills that Mr. Mailman had earlier in the year.
and 3. Hailee Young.
I don't remember what part Hailee Young was supposed to play or what testimony she was expected to give. All I remember is what actually happened.
After reviewing the case file, I did not like my chances in the case of State v. Mailman. To me, the flower watering witness would be impossible to impeach, particularly because that part would be played by April Johnson, whom everyone trusted.
What's more, April Johnson was very popular, and I was aware that this jury was going to be inclined to vote for her, and in the process let a likely murderer back onto the streets and into our mailboxes.
And so, I made a plan, one where the ends justified the means, and that plan involved Hailee Young.
I had something of a complicated relationship with Hailee Young, what with her taunting me in front of my mother only the year before when my parents were called to the school for disciplinary reasons that are not worth repeating. Hailee had followed us back out to the car where my mother had carried me by the right ear that still has no feeling to this day, chanting "what are you gonna do, Eli. Kiss your mama!?"
This left wounds that have yet to heal.
Considering this history, I don't remember why I thought that Hailee Young would be my best mole on the defense team, but my instincts were apparently astute because I approached Hailee at recess that day and asked her if she would be willing to just testify that she saw Mr. Mailman murder Mrs. Butters with his bare hands.
At a speed that should have alarmed child psychologists at the time, Hailee agreed with my proposal and told me she would take it from there.
The next week we began our mock trial. I fit the part. I was wearing a clip-on tie, and everything. Hailee wore a red dress, presumably to intimidate.
We began with opening statements. Mine was nearly a minute a long and included such slogans as "this mailman won't be delivering any truth" and "vote for Mrs. Butters," because I didn't entirely understand that this was different than an election.
Then Tim Ipson arose and gave a speech about how maybe Mrs. Butters just took all of the pills on purpose because she liked how they made her feel, which was both compelling and it made me wonder what went on at Tim Ipson's house.
And then Judge Melanie B., reading from a script provided to her by Mrs. Southwick, asked me to call my first witness.
There was a gasp in the room when I called Hailee Young, who had been slated to testify for the defense.
Mrs. Southwick, who was either practicing a hands-off or minds-off teaching approach didn't intervene at this point, which has always been interesting to me.
Hailee took the stand.
She swore the surprisingly religious oath on an actual Book of Mormon, one of, I assume, several copies at the school.
I asked her only one question: "Did Mr. Mailman kill Mrs. Butters."
Hailee Young answered like she had been preparing for this moment for her entire life.
She said that he did and she saw him do it. She said she was hiding in a cupboard when it happened. She pulled out a fabricated and forged signed confession that she claimed to have obtained from Mr. Mailman that very morning, which included the statement "I might tell the judge I didn't do it but I'm just lying because I don't want to go to jail today." I thought that was a nice touch. And totally fool-proof.
When Hailee was finished with her answer, I rested my case.
In the few seconds before Mrs. Southwick scolded us and made us start the trial over again, I thought to myself, "being a lawyer is easy."
~It Just Gets Stranger