Defending American Justice: Video of a "mock trial event" held in London in March 2010. The defendant is the American system of capital punishment. The expert witnesses for the defense are Kent Scheidegger, Paul Cassell, and Robert Blecker.
Preliminaries: The clerk, Alistair Carmichael, MP, opens the event with a traditional call to order. The judges, Lord Woolf of Barnes, former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Sir Louis Bloom-Cooper, QC, and Geoffrey Robertson, QC, take their seats.
Arguments: The lawyers Roy Amlot, QC, and Dorian Lovell-Pank, QC, deliver their opening arguments. There is some discussion about the timeframe of the events to be tried. Does it begin with the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, Furman v. Georgia or Gregg v. Georgia?
Julian Killingley, Professor of American Public Law at Birmingham City University, testifies on racial bias, competence of lawyers, elections of judges, and allegations of prosecutor misconduct.
Nicholas Trenticosta, Director of the Center for Equal Justice, testifies on racial bias, competence of lawyers, and exonerations.
Amendment of Indictment: After return from a break, the indictment is amended to cover only the modern era.
Cathy Harrington, mother of a murder victim, testifies on the impact of the process on victims' families. On cross-examination, opposing counsel asks her twice if the plea bargain entered in her daughter's case would have been possible if California did not have the death penalty.
Paul Cassell, Professor at the University of Utah S. J. Quinney College of Law, testifies on exonerations, deterrence, and incapacitation.
Closing: By agreement, there were no closing arguments from the lawyers. However, the three judges made statements. First, Lord Wolff gave instructions on the burden of proof with some opinion mixed in. Then Sir Louis Bloom-Cooper delivered what amounted to an argument for one side. Finally, the third judge, Geoffrey Robertson, delivered a long harangue for one side. The organizers later apologized to us for the judges' behavior, which they had not expected. Our counsel advised us that in an actual trial this would have been reversible error.
The verdict was not a surprise, given the composition of the "jury," largely people interested in supporting an anti-death-penalty organization. I was pleasantly surprised to get as many votes as we did.
A Final Note: Although Amicus is on the other side of this debate, I was impressed by their fairness and courtesy in organizing the event. They went to considerable trouble and expense to bring three of the best advocates for our side to London. (I hope that doesn't sound too immodest, in my own case.) The event was structured in a way that should have been fair, but for the judges' unexpectedly biased closing. The "verdict" was to be expected, coming mostly from their supporters, but that was not particularly important. More important was a thorough airing of the competing arguments, which I believe was achieved.
The video on this page was originally made by the Guardian, London's very left-wing newspaper. They originally posted a cut-down version on their own site. Eventually, Amicus and the University of Utah purchased the full video from the Guardian, and that is how we were finally able to post the entire event here for the education of the public. We hope you find it enlightening.
Still photos of the event by Andrew Aitchison are available here.