I have just completed this. Just thought it was interesting and some of you Brainiacs would enjoy it.
Helen Brooks Testimony:
I am the downstairs neighbor of the defendant, Thomas Randall, and have lived in the building for twenty years. These college kids tend to be noisy and keep late hours, especially the boys. I really don't see how they're able to learn anything at the college. Wild parties every weekend and sometimes even during the week. This party on Halloween was one of the wildest. Music loud enough to make your head burst; kids jumping around—I guess they call it dancing—so that the ceiling was shaking. Finally, at midnight I went up to ask them to please keep it down—after all, it was Thursday night and some of us have to work. What a scene! A young woman was leaving just as I arrived. I later found out she was Kelly Greene, the woman who ran over those two college students. Mr. Randall had his arm around her and was saying goodbye. The way she was acting—giggling, stumbling around—it was obvious she was drunk. She was an accident waiting to happen, and it did!
A1. Question: Explain what may have shaped Helen Brook’s perceptual lens and what effect this may have on her credibility?
William Doyle Testimony:
I attended the party at Tom Randall's apartment on Halloween. I didn't actually receive an invitation—I came along with someone who did. I don't really know him that well. This was a pretty wild party. The place was jammed, and people were out of control! Dancing, drinking, laughing, singing—you know. Mr. Randall was making the rounds, making sure that everyone was having a good time, encouraging them to drink. I saw him talking to Kelly Greene on several occasions. He kept forcing her to drink, even though she didn't seem that willing. He said things like: "Have another drink, it's the only way to have fun at parties like this," and "Don't worry, another drink won't kill you." I didn't think he should have been doing that, pressuring her to drink and all. I really like Kelly. This is her first year here at school, and she's really sweet. I don't think she would have gotten in this trouble if she hadn't been encouraged to drink too much. She's only 18, a fact I'm sure Tom was aware of. As the host, it's his responsibility to make sure that illegal drinking isn't permitted and that when people leave they are capable of driving safely.
A2. Question: What facts and inferences does William Doyle make in his testimony? Are they relevant to the case?
Wendy Duvall Testimony:
I've known Tom Randall for three years, and he's one of the finest and most responsible people I know. Tom is a serious student, and he is also a very caring person. He plans to be a teacher and works as a volunteer with special education students in a local school. He would never do anything to intentionally hurt anyone. His only purpose in having the Halloween party was for people to enjoy themselves. He paid for the whole thing himself! As far as people drinking is concerned, the fact is that drinking is one of the major social activities on campus. Virtually everyone drinks, from their first semester until their last. It's just the way things are here. People just don't pay attention to the drinking age on campus. It's as if the college is its own little world, with its own rules. The people at the party weren't drinking because Tom was pressuring or encouraging them to. They were drinking because that's what they do when they go to parties. If Tom hadn't had alcohol there, people would have gone out and brought some back-or gone to a party that did have alcohol. I didn't see Tom talk to Kelly, but he was circulating, trying to be a good host, seeing if people needed anything. He certainly wouldn't try to "pressure" someone into having a drink they didn't want to have. What happened with Kelly was a terrible, unfortunate accident—it certainly is something Tom should not be held responsible for.
A3. Question: Explain what may have shaped Wendy Duvall’s perceptual lens and what effect this may have on her credibility?
Tom Randall (defendant) Testimony:
I had been planning this Halloween party since school started in September. I thought that it would be fun and give me a chance to pay back students who had invited me to their parties. I had plenty of food and beverages on hand—soda and juice, as well as alcohol. Of course, I'm aware that the drinking age is 21 and that many students haven't reached that age yet; but nobody really takes the law very seriously. After all, if you're old enough to vote, get married, work, and be drafted, you should be old enough to drink. As far as my party was concerned, I felt that everyone had a right to make up their own minds—I just made the beverages available. Once people decided what they wanted to drink, I did try to keep them refilled. After all, that's the job of a good host. I remember Kelly was drinking beer, and I probably did bring her one or two over the course of the evening. I don't have any idea about the total amount of beer she had—I had no way of keeping track. I do remember saying goodbye to her, and she seemed in reasonably good shape. She was planning to drive. Looking back, I guess I should have paid more attention to her condition, but there were so many people there and so much was happening, I just didn't think about it. This party was not unusual—it's exactly like most of the parties that happen on campus. It's just that they don't usually end with someone dying.
A4. Question: What facts and inferences does Tom Randall make in his testimony? Are they relevant to the case?
B. Asking Important Questions
Defense lawyers and prosecutors cross-examine the witnesses in order to help determine the credibility of the witnesses and the accuracy of their testimony.
B1. Question: Imagine that you are the defense lawyer. Ask Helen Brooks one question of fact and explain why your question in important.
B2. Question: Imagine that you are the prosecutor. Ask Tom Randall one question and explain why your question is important.
C. Constructing Knowledge
One of the important goals of critical thinking is developing beliefs about the world that are well-founded. Often this process involves analyzing and synthesizing a variety of accounts in an effort to determine "what really happened." Analyze and synthesize the testimony presented by the witnesses as you answer the question below.
C1. Question: Do you believe that Mr. Randall was aware that Ms. Greene was intoxicated when she left his party? Do you believe he knew—or should have known—she would be driving home? Explain the reasons for your conclusion.
Dr. Elizabeth Gonzalez (prosecution witness) Testimony:
I am a staff psychologist at a substance abuse center in town. Why do people drink to excess? Typically through the influence of the people around them, as happened to Kelly Greene. When most eighteen-year-old students enter college, they do not have a drinking problem. However, although few realize it, these unwary young people are entering a culture in which alcohol is the drug of choice. It is a drug that can easily destroy their lives. According to some estimates, between 80 percent and 90 percent of the students on many campuses drink alcohol. Many of these students are heavy drinkers. One study found that nearly 30 percent of university students are heavy drinkers, consuming more than fifteen alcoholic drinks a week. Another study found that among those who drink at least once a week, 92 percent of the men and 82 percent of the women consume at least five drinks in a row, and half said they wanted to get drunk. The results of all this drinking are predictably deadly. Virtually all college administrators agree that alcohol is the most widely used drug among college students and that its abuse is directly related to emotional problems and violent behavior, ranging from date rape to death. For example, at one university, a twenty-year-old woman became drunk at a fraternity party and fell to her death from the third floor. At another university, two students were killed in a drunk-driving accident after drinking alcohol at an off-campus fraternity house. The families of both students have filed lawsuits against the fraternity. When students like Kelly Greene enter a college or university, they soon become socialized into the alcohol-sodden culture of "higher education," typically at parties just like the one hosted by Mr. Randall. The influence of peer pressure is enormous. When your friends and fellow students are encouraging you to drink, it is extremely difficult to resist giving in to these pressures. In my judgment, students like Kelly Greene are corrupted by people like Tom Randall. He must share in the responsibility for her personal tragedy and for the harm that resulted from it.
D1. Question: Is the information provided by Dr. Gonzalez is relevant to the guilt or innocence of Tom Randall? Why, or why not?
Dr. Richard Cutler (defense witness):
I am a psychologist in private practice, and I am also employed by the university to be available for students who need professional assistance. The misuse of alcohol is a problem of all youth in our society, not just college students. For example, a recent study by the surgeon general's office shows that one in three teenagers consumes alcohol every week. This is an abuse that leads to traffic deaths, academic difficulties, and acts of violence. Another study based on a large, nationally representative sample indicates that although college students are more likely to use alcohol, they tend to drink less quantity per drinking day than non-students of the same age. In other words, college students are more social drinkers than problem drinkers. Another sample of undergraduate students found that college drinking is not as widespread as many people think. The clear conclusion is that while drinking certainly takes place on college campuses, it is no greater a problem than in the population at large. What causes the misuse of alcohol? Well, certainly the influence of friends, whether in college or out, plays a role. But it is not the only factor. To begin with, there is evidence that family history is related to alcohol abuse. For example, one survey of college students found greater problem drinking among students whose parent or grandparent had been diagnosed (or treated) for alcoholism. Another study found that college students who come from families with high degrees of conflict display a greater potential for alcoholism. Another important factor in the misuse of alcohol by young people is advertising. A recent article entitled "It isn't Miller time yet, and this Bud's not for you" underscores the influence advertisers exert on the behavior of our youth. By portraying beer drinkers as healthy, fun-loving, attractive young people, they create role models that many youths imitate. In the same way that cigarette advertisers used to encourage smoking among our youth—without regard to the health hazards—so alcohol advertisers try to sell as much booze as they can to whomever will buy it—no matter what the consequences. A final factor in the abuse of alcohol is the people themselves. Although young people are subject to a huge number of influences, in the final analysis, they are free to choose what they want to do. They don't have to drink, no matter what the social pressures. In fact, many students resist these pressures and choose not to drink. And if they do drink, they don't have to get behind the wheel of a car.
D2. Question: Is the information provided by Dr. Cutler relevant to the guilt or innocence of Tom Randall? Why, or why not?
D3. Question: Which expert’s testimony is more convincing to you, and why?
We are in this courtroom today because Melissa Anderson's young life was tragically ended as a direct result of irresponsible behavior on the part of the defendant, Thomas Randall, who served Kelly Greene alcohol and encouraged her to drink, knowing that she was three years underage. Too often in criminal trials the victim is forgotten, while attention becomes focused on the lives of the living. Certainly this event is a tragedy for Mr. Randall and Ms. Greene, but it is a far greater tragedy for Melissa and her loved ones. She will never have the opportunity to live the rest of her life, and if people like Mr. Randall are permitted to act illegally without punishment, there will be many more tragedies like Melissa's in the future.
When Mr. Randall provided alcohol and encouraged drinking for underage minors at his party, he was violating the law. And when Ms. Greene, one of these underage minors, left his party drunk, got behind a wheel, and killed an innocent human being, Tom Randall became an accessory to this senseless murder. Similarly, the university must assume its share of the blame. As the investigator into the death of the woman who fell to her death at a fraternity party noted: "If universities and colleges want to teach responsibility, there might be something to be said for teaching observance of the law—simply because it is the law". If Mr. Randall had displayed respect for the law, then none of these events would have occurred, and Melissa would be alive today.
We have heard experts describe the destructive role that alcohol plays on college campuses and the devastating results of alcohol abuse. Students, in flagrant violation of the law, have made drinking a more common college activity than attending class or studying. When young, impressionable people like Kelly Greene enter these "hangover universities," they are immediately drawn into a destructive alcoholic web—seduced, cajoled, and pressured to enter this culture of underage drinkers. And who creates this culture and its pressure? People like Thomas Randall, who "innocently" give booze parties for underage students and actively encourage them to drink. If students like Mr. Randall acted in a responsible and law-abiding fashion, then new students would not be seduced and pressured into these destructive behaviors. Violent tragedies associated with alcohol abuse would not occur, and students could focus on productive activities—like learning.
We have heard testimony that Mr. Randall was not an innocent participant in these events—he knew Ms. Greene was underage, he actively cajoled and encouraged her to get drunk, and he let her go home alone knowing she was in no condition to drive safely. Mr. Randall is not an evil person, but he is guilty of criminally irresponsible behavior, and he must be held accountable for his actions. Society must protect our young people from themselves and put an end to the destructive abuse of this dangerous drug.
E1. Question (5 pts): Outline ONE key argument used in the prosecution's summation. What was the conclusion? Based on what reasons or premises?
E2. Question: Evaluate the strength of the argument you identified in E1 by assessing the truth of the reasons and the extent to which the conclusions follows logically from the reasons.
The death of Melissa Anderson is, of course, a tragedy. It was the direct result of Kelly Greene's error in judgment; and although she certainly didn't intend for anything like this to occur, she must be judged for her responsibility. However, it makes no sense to rectify this tragedy by ruining Thomas Randall's life. He is in no way responsible for the death of Melissa Anderson. All he did was host a party for his friends, the kind of party that takes place all the time on virtually every college campus. He is a victim of an unreasonable law that you must be twenty-one years of age to drink alcohol. I'll bet every person in this courtroom had at least one drink of alcohol before they were twenty-one years old. If people are mature enough to vote, drive cards, hold jobs, pay taxes, and be drafted, then they are mature enough to drink alcohol. And it's unreasonable to expect a party host to run around playing policeman, telling guests who can drink and who can't. As one college president noted: "It's awfully hard to control a mixed-age group where some can drink and some can't, but all are students. Since the consumption of alcohol is not in general an illegal activity—unlike marijuana or crack—you have this bizarre situation where at the mystic age of twenty-one, suddenly people can drink legally when they couldn't the day before".
In addition, we have heard experts describe how there are many factors that contribute to alcohol abuse—besides the influence of other people. The power of advertisers, family history, and the personal choices by individuals all play a role in whether someone is going to drink excessively. It is unfair to single out one person, like Tom Randall, and blame him for Ms. Greene's behavior. Her decision to drink that night was the result of a variety of factors, most of which we will never fully understand. However, in the final analysis, Ms. Greene must be held responsible for her own free choices. When Kelly Greene attended Tom Randall's party, nobody forced her to drink—there were plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available. And after she chose to drink, nobody forced her to attempt to drive her car home—she had other alternatives. Ultimately, there was only one person responsible for the tragic events of that evening, and that person is Kelly Greene.
We live in a society in which people are constantly trying to blame everyone but themselves for their mistakes or misfortunes. This is not a healthy or productive approach. If this society is going to foster the development of independent, mature citizens, then people must be willing to accept responsibility for their own freely made choices and not look for scapegoats like Mr. Randall to blame for their failings.
E3. Question: Outline ONE key argument used in the defense's summation. What was the conclusion? Based on what reasons or premises?
E4. Question: Evaluate the strength of the argument you identified in E3 by assessing the truth of the reasons and the extent to which the conclusions follows logically from the reasons.
Reaching a Verdict:
Reaching a verdict in a situation like this involves complex processes of reasoning and decision making. In your discussion with the other jurors, you must decide if the evidence indicates, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant should have anticipated the destructive consequences of his behavior. In other words, did the defendant, Thomas Randall, knowingly encourage an underage woman, Kelly Greene, to drink excessively? When she left the party, should he have recognized her inebriated condition and made sure that she was not intending to drive home? Should he have been able to anticipate that terrible consequences might result if she tried to drive in her inebriated state? The principle of beyond a reasonable doubt is difficult to define in specific terms, but in general the principle means that it would not make good sense for thoughtful men and women to conclude otherwise.
F1. Question : Based on your analysis of the evidence and arguments presented in this case, write your verdict and explain in detail your reasons for reaching this conclusion.