By Elisabeth George | Reporter
In commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre, the History department and Baylor Law School put on an improvised mock trial in Bennett Auditorium Thursday afternoon.
Dr. Julie Sweet, history professor at Baylor, organized the performance along with Baylor Law professors Gerald Powell and Abner McCall.
The performance was an improvised, unscripted, mock trial based on real events that happened in 1770. In her opening statements, Sweet explained that while only men were permitted to be in court at that time, both men and women would be participating in the trial.
The clerk read the indictment to which the defendants Private Hugh Montgomery and Private High White, portrayed by Temple master’s candidate Danny Dunn and Solon, Iowa senior Katy Clevenger respectively, pleaded not guilty. The trial proceeded with the presentment of charges, opening arguments, witness testimony, closing arguments, jury deliberation and the publication of the verdict.
A bailiff strode around the room during the event keeping order. He hushed the occasional hecklers and to the amusement of the audience, loudly telling some students to “please remove your chapeaus,” (referring to their baseball caps) out of respect for the proceedings.
In a Baylor press release, Sweets said that the students performing have studied historical documents from which they have based their characters. She said that the goal of the performance was to show that history is not boring and that there are many different ways to learn and experience it.
Powell said he thought it “presents a unique opportunity for history students to do research in their field and our law students to practice their trial skills.”
Blue Springs, Mo. senior Caleb O’Donnell portrayed the witness Benjamin Davis Jr. He said that the groups have been preparing for the mock trial since November.
“We all had to prepare witness statements that included what was actually said in the testimony,” O’Donnell said. “We each got a person who was in that trial. And then we took other people’s testimonies, we took surrounding scholarship, mainly primary sources, and tried to craft who our character was.”
O’Donnell is a history major with a rhetoric, public discourse and legal reasoning minor. He said that he wanted to get involved in this reenactment because he loves this area of history.
Both legal teams and the witnesses were dressed in period clothing, and some of the audience members were dressed in period clothing as well. Pam Webb, a reenactor from Grand Prairie, said she was impressed with the costumes and thought the actors had worn them very well. Webb said she has been involved in reenacting since 1989.
“My ex husband went to an event, and he says, ‘Oh you got to see this, you got to see this!’ and drug me out there and we were hooked,” Webb said. “It was actually a rendezvous, which is the mountain Cartwright era, which is a later time period than this. And through the years, we’ve just, you know, you see other things and you just [think] ‘oh, I want to play there!’”
Webb said that she has worn reenactment clothing for the Civil War, Mountain Fur Trade, and the 18th century, the latter being her favorite.