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The Verdict: Bethel Students on John Brown’s Legacy

  • Second year Vermont Law School JD students, and Schweitzer Fellows Charlie Becker, left, and Ben Gustafson, right, guide jury deliberations in a mock trial with Whitcomb Junior High School students to decide the legacy of abolitionist John Brown at Vermont Law School, April 16, 2014. Through their fellowship they hope to expose the students to the possibilty of a career in law, and provide intellectual stimulation and mentorship to the class.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Second year Vermont Law School JD students, and Schweitzer Fellows Charlie Becker, left, and Ben Gustafson, right, guide jury deliberations in a mock trial with Whitcomb Junior High School students to decide the legacy of abolitionist John Brown at Vermont Law School, April 16, 2014. Through their fellowship they hope to expose the students to the possibilty of a career in law, and provide intellectual stimulation and mentorship to the class.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Vermont Law School's Dean of Student Affairs and Diversity Shirley Jefferson welcomes a class of Whitcomb Junior High School students to the law school where they would participate in a mock trial Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Jefferson told of how her experiences living in segregated Selma, Ala., and marching with Martin Luther King Jr. inspired her desire to fight for justice with a career as a lawyer.  <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Vermont Law School's Dean of Student Affairs and Diversity Shirley Jefferson welcomes a class of Whitcomb Junior High School students to the law school where they would participate in a mock trial Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Jefferson told of how her experiences living in segregated Selma, Ala., and marching with Martin Luther King Jr. inspired her desire to fight for justice with a career as a lawyer.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Prosecutor Avery Palmer, 14, of East Bethel, Vt., questions a witness to make her case that John Brown was a murderous madman during a mock trial at Vermont Law School Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Palmer and her eighth grade social studies class studied current events, and court room procedure with VLS students Charlie Becker and Ben Gustafson on top of their normal curriculum throughout the year to prepare for the trial.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Prosecutor Avery Palmer, 14, of East Bethel, Vt., questions a witness to make her case that John Brown was a murderous madman during a mock trial at Vermont Law School Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Palmer and her eighth grade social studies class studied current events, and court room procedure with VLS students Charlie Becker and Ben Gustafson on top of their normal curriculum throughout the year to prepare for the trial.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Damian Young, 14, of Bethel, Vt., right, acting as bailiff, swears in Ally Covel, 13, of Stockbridge, Vt., acting as Frederick Douglas, a witness for the defense in their mock trial to decide the legacy of the abolitionist John Brown at Vermont Law School in South Royalton Wednesday, April 16, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Damian Young, 14, of Bethel, Vt., right, acting as bailiff, swears in Ally Covel, 13, of Stockbridge, Vt., acting as Frederick Douglas, a witness for the defense in their mock trial to decide the legacy of the abolitionist John Brown at Vermont Law School in South Royalton Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Anna Smith, 13, of Bethel, Vt., listens to testimony in the John Brown legacy mock trial at Vermont Law School Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Smith directed the court procedure as her fellow Whitcomb Junior High Students argued over whether or not the abolitionist John Brown was a "murderous madman" or a "national hero."<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Anna Smith, 13, of Bethel, Vt., listens to testimony in the John Brown legacy mock trial at Vermont Law School Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Smith directed the court procedure as her fellow Whitcomb Junior High Students argued over whether or not the abolitionist John Brown was a "murderous madman" or a "national hero."
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Second year Vermont Law School JD students, and Schweitzer Fellows Charlie Becker, left, and Ben Gustafson, right, guide jury deliberations in a mock trial with Whitcomb Junior High School students to decide the legacy of abolitionist John Brown at Vermont Law School, April 16, 2014. Through their fellowship they hope to expose the students to the possibilty of a career in law, and provide intellectual stimulation and mentorship to the class.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Vermont Law School's Dean of Student Affairs and Diversity Shirley Jefferson welcomes a class of Whitcomb Junior High School students to the law school where they would participate in a mock trial Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Jefferson told of how her experiences living in segregated Selma, Ala., and marching with Martin Luther King Jr. inspired her desire to fight for justice with a career as a lawyer.  <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Prosecutor Avery Palmer, 14, of East Bethel, Vt., questions a witness to make her case that John Brown was a murderous madman during a mock trial at Vermont Law School Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Palmer and her eighth grade social studies class studied current events, and court room procedure with VLS students Charlie Becker and Ben Gustafson on top of their normal curriculum throughout the year to prepare for the trial.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Damian Young, 14, of Bethel, Vt., right, acting as bailiff, swears in Ally Covel, 13, of Stockbridge, Vt., acting as Frederick Douglas, a witness for the defense in their mock trial to decide the legacy of the abolitionist John Brown at Vermont Law School in South Royalton Wednesday, April 16, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Anna Smith, 13, of Bethel, Vt., listens to testimony in the John Brown legacy mock trial at Vermont Law School Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Smith directed the court procedure as her fellow Whitcomb Junior High Students argued over whether or not the abolitionist John Brown was a "murderous madman" or a "national hero."<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

A jury failed to deliver a verdict in a mock trial at Vermont Law School last week that taught students about history, law, public speaking and more.

The students, eighth-graders from Bethel’s Whitcomb Junior/Senior High, were weighing the legacy of John Brown, the abolitionist who led a raid on Harper’s Ferry, Va., in 1859, hoping to start a slave revolt. The Whitcomb students were to decide whether he was a “murderous madman” or a hero, but were unable to settle on either of those choices.

Two Vermont Law school students, Charlie Becker and Ben Gustafson, both Schweitzer Fellows (a program that facilitates public service projects) have visited Whitcomb since September, teaching current events and an introduction to law. “The students had fun putting on the trial, which is a great sign,’’ said Gustafson.