students get feel for court room; wbu to offer pre-law preparation degree

Release Date: November 21, 2008    


Mock Trial

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University students in Dr. Denton Lankford’s criminal law class got a taste of courtroom drama when they participated in a mock trial of an actual case that took place in Alabama in 1975. Students used class time to present and try the case that called for vast amounts of research on the part of those involved.

              Lankford, who holds a jurist doctorate from the Birmingham School of Law, said this type of preparation and learning will be beneficial to students who participate in Wayland’s new composite social sciences major specializing in preparing students for law school. In essence, it is a pre-law degree. Students who complete the program and continue taking classes for one more year can leave school with both a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s of public administration. Wayland will begin offering this program in the fall of 2009.

              The State of Alabama vs. Jerry Marcus involved the murder of a nursing school student on Oct. 6, 1975. The case was never tried officially because Marcus was found guilty on two other counts of murder and is serving life in prison in Mississippi. Students in class served as the prosecution and defense, as well as witnesses and expert witnesses to deal with the evidence. Prosecutors presented physical evidence associated with the murder as well as photos and a timeline. The defense tried for an insanity plea based on mood disorders. Lankford served as the judge in the case.

              “This was a good experience and I learned a lot about myself,” said Brandi Blankenship, a senior who is studying for the LSAT and planning to attend law school. “I learned that I would be a good lawyer in the sense that I was very dedicated to the case. I thought about it all the time and dreamed about it.”

              Blankenship said the fun part was trying to find ways to put holes in another person’s story.

              “You have to think the way someone else would think,” she said.

              The case centered around an orderly at the hospital where the victim worked. As she was walking to work one day, he offered her a ride. When they pulled into the hospital parking lot, he allegedly made advances that she refused. He became angry and ended up strangling her and dumping the body.

              After weighing the evidence and arguments submitted by the attorneys, Lankford ruled in favor of the prosecution.

Lankford likes using this teaching technique with his students. He said this type of practical application of the law helps student better grasp and retain the information.

              “It’s fun to apply what you are learning,” Blankenship said. “That is what really sticks with me.”