Students modernize Lizzie Borden trial

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/24/96.

The defense attorneys had done their homework, and in the 1996 version of the Lizzie Borden trial, she was released a second time.

The Teen Law class of Jeff Youngs, at Paynesville Area High School, retried Lizzie Borden of Fall River, Mass. The students had read ãBe the Judge? Be the Juryä in preparation for the project. Michelle Lahr was picked to play the role of Lizzie Borden. Sarah Novak was the expert forensic witness. Stacy Roberg was Lizzieâs sister.

The students chose to modernize the trial, Jeff Youngs, instructor, said. In the 1892 trial, Lizzie Borden was tried before an all male jury, with no forensic evidence presented.

Two local attorneys, Ross Amundson and Nancy Landmark, worked with the students, helping them to prepare their cases. ãThe kids put in a lot of time outside of class researching the project. They wrote most of their own material from the original historic trial. They revised and modernized the script to make it appropriate for today,ä Youngs said. ãNovak worked with the Paynesville Police Department and pulled together physical evidence which she presented at the trial. The students did fingerprinting, testing of blood work and wrote up all types of forms in preparation for the trial,ä he added.

Youngs explained the Lizzie Borden came from a well to do family but lived mizerly because of her fatherâs philosophy. Lizzie wanted to live in high society and she resented her stepmother coming between her and her father. ãThis was a very disfunctional family,ä Youngs said.

ãWe had 25 students take part in the trial. It was great to see the project grow and come together,ä he added. ãWe tried to run a realistic trial and the students really got wrapped up in their roles. Both the prosecution and defense presented a strong case but some of the jury members had doubts and the end result was a 4-2 vote in favor of letting Lizzie Borden off again.ä

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