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“Witness Lab” brings mock trials, legal simulations to University of Michigan Museum of Art Feb. 15

New installation to act as platform for exploration of the roles of witnesses in law

"Double Jeopardy" take in 2019 by Courtney McClellan.
"Double Jeopardy" take in 2019 by Courtney McClellan. (Courtney McClellan)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – On Feb. 15, the University of Michigan Museum of Art will open up it’s “Witness Lab,” an installation and simulation series by Courtney McClellan.

Turning the Irving Stenn, Jr. Family Gallery into a courtroom, “Witness Lab” explores the roles of witnesses in society and how performances change perceptions within a courtroom and legal system.

The Stamps School of Art & Design and the UMMA Roman J. Witt Artist in Residence, McClellan is researching how the observations of witnesses contain aspects of storytelling and retelling.

The installation will act as a stage for mock trials and legal simulations from various organizations like the Trial Advocacy Society, the undergraduate team of the Collegiate American Mock Trial Association and the Oral Argument Competition from the U-M Law School.

U-M students will also act as courtroom sketch artists or court reporters so as to document the simulations.

Simulations and mock trials are scheduled for March 11, 13, 18, 24, 25 and on April 1 and 7.

While the events are free and open to the public, some may require registration.

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"Moot (University of Michigan)," a  digital print taken in 2019 by Courtney McClellan.
"Moot (University of Michigan)," a digital print taken in 2019 by Courtney McClellan. (Courtney McClellan.)

Here are the four notable simulations scheduled to use the installation.

Salem Witch Trials

March 11, 18

Lead by Professor Leonard M. Niehoff of the U-M Law School, aspects of the Salem Witch Trials will be performed with attention paid to colonial American law. The performance will utilize Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and Niehoff’s upcoming book on the trials as source material.

Neihoff will also lead a seminar discussion on the topic.

Romeo vs. the City of Verona

March 13

Greenhills Middle School students will look at Shakespeare “Romeo and Juliet” to decide is Romeo is responsible for Tybalt’s death. Students will hypothetically put Romeo on trial and will speculate as to whether or not Romeo is guilty of Tybalt’s death.

Registration is required as seating for this event is limited.

Supreme Court 101

March 24, April 7

Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court Bridget McCormack will teach about the basics of the Michigan Supreme Court as well as talk about important judicial decisions made in some famous Michigan judicial cases.

Registration is required for both events.

Performance in Trial Advocacy

March 25, April 1

Vital courtroom lessons about trial advocacy will be taught by Judge Timothy Connors and Margaret Connors. Traditional courtroom negotiations, alternative forms of adjudication and the importance of performance and movement when mediating a case will all be discussed.

Registration is not required but seating will be limited.

The “Witness Lab” will run from Feb. 15 to May 17.

The UMMA is at 525 South State St.


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