courtroom image

Using the list of cases below, select an videotape from Court TV about a case that is closely related to at least one of our course units.

Step one: Imagine that you are a juror at the trial of your chosen case as you view the tape; though jurors are usually not allowed to take notes, you may jot down key arguments as you watch. Turn off the tape right before the verdict (i.e., listen to the lawyers' closing statements and then stop the tape). Write down what you think your verdict would have been if you were a member of the jury and the reasons for your decision. Then turn on the tape and listen to the actual verdict. If you are watching the tape with other students from the class, you may discuss the case as actual jurors would before looking at the verdict, but you should complete the other stages of the assignment individually rather than collectively.

Step two: Review the course readings to find those that pertain directly to the issues raised by your case. Make a bibliography of all the articles you think are pertinent. You are not expected to do any additional library research for this assignment; However, you may want to read articles in the text that pertain to your case but have not been assigned to the rest of the class, though this is not required. Jot down an outline of the major points and arguments raised in these articles that you think have some bearing on your case. Make an appointment during the week of March 27-31 with one of the course instructors to discuss your outline and ideas for the paper (we will divide the class on the basis of cases chosen and each serve as mentor for half the class).

Step three: Write a draft of your paper that includes the following:

  1. A brief summary of the case and its actual outcome.
  2. A discussion of your initial verdict and the reasons why you chose this verdict (before you knew the actual disposition of the case); compare your verdict with the actual outcome of the case, explaining why you think the jurors came to the conclusion they did.
  3. An analysis of the case from the perspectives raised in pertinent course readings, including your reaction to the actual legal procedures and methods of legal reasoning that you saw demonstrated in this case and a discussion of how these do or do not support some of the feminist critiques of these legal procedures and methods of reasoning. Turn in this draft to your mentor by April 13.

Step four: Meet with your mentor between April 14-20 to discuss your draft. Then revise the paper and submit the final version by April 27.

Videotapes Available:

I. Two separate tapes, each containing Was It Rape?, a case in which four young men are accused of raping and beating a woman who was allegedly a drug user and prostitute.

II. One tape with 2 relevant cases (please ignore the first case on the tape—Washington v. Sousa—since the first 15 minutes of the case are missing; this case can be found on tape V):

III. Kentucky v. Rupe: a battered wife is accused of murder in the shooting death of her sleeping husband; case raises issues of how self-defense is to be interpreted in cases of domestic abuse.

IV. Mahlum v Dow Chemical: A woman who had had a mastectomy had breast implants, which, she claims, caused her health problems eight years later.

V. One tape with Hall v. Hall, a divorce case, and Washington v. Sousa, in which a husband and wife are accused of murder in the scalding death of their six-week-old infant; they claim it was a tragic accident caused by their two-year-old daughter.

Daniel McCarthy <>
Barbara F. McManus<>
HON303/WMS303 Syllabus
March 2000