Everything you ever wanted to know about judicial . . . and more!
by GRACE MANCUSO (Wheaton North) and PARKER LOWE (Wheaton North)
This year, the Y&G attorneys have been working on two different criminal cases, People of the State of Illinois v. Archer, and People of the State of Illinois v. Fletcher.
In the case of People of the State of Illinois v. Archer, a man named Chris Archer was tried for the murder of Milly Jackson. Archer was the president of the Phi Gamma fraternity and Jackson was rushing his co-ed fraternity. On rush night, Jackson had been drinking, and Archer told her to hang the fraternity flag. Jackson took the flag to the top of the clock tower where she fell to her death. Whether or not Archer pushed Jackson is disputed.
The case of People of the State of Illinois v. Fletcher deals with the murder of a police officer in February of 2017. Officer Mark Kane was shot while sitting in his parked squad car. The sole witness, Beatrice Greene, was able to identify Richard Edwards as one of the two men involved after he was arrested for a burglary two weeks later. Edwards at first denied being involved, but after working out a deal with the prosecutors, he confessed and identified Frank Fletcher as his accomplice. Fletcher was arrested in his apartment and Edwards has not been charged with murder.
The defendants of both of these cases were convicted, but concern over the lack of a fair trial prompted both defendants to appeal their convictions. With each case there were two issues that the Defense believed warranted an appeal. The first issue of the Archer case was that the prosecutor made a number of statements to which the Defense objected and the Judge sustained. The second issue dealt with the events upon Archer’s arrest. His sobriety test indicated that he was not severely intoxicated, however his behavior did not coincide. The first issue of the Fletcher case dealt with conflicts over the lineup used by Beatrice Greene to identify Fletcher. The second issue pertained to allegations of a possibly prejudiced judge. Accompanying each issue were four historical court cases to be referenced in order to justify their reasoning. It was up to the attorney group to decide if they wanted to be the prosecution or the defense.
To prepare for the Assembly in Springfield, the attorneys were required to write bench memos, which range from fifteen to fifty pages. A bench memo is a neutral document that summarizes the legal reasoning and facts of a court case. These bench memos are very important because they are the deciding factor for how the attorneys are ranked within the courts. The best bench memos are awarded the privilege of presenting their oral arguments in the Supreme Court. Michael Smith of Waubonsie Valley High School says that getting to deliver his oral argument in the Supreme Court Room is the “pinnacle of what we do as attorneys.” These oral arguments are then judged based on professionalism, delivery, language, and legal reasoning. Those with the highest ranking oral arguments get the honor of debating their cases in the Thunderdome.
The Christopher A. MacDonald Celebratory Thunderdome, simply known as the Thunderdome, is an event in which the top prosecution team and the top defense team of both cases go head to head. This event is being held in Capitol Room 212 at 11:30 am and will finish at 12:45 pm. Chief Justice Rekha Iyer described it as a “very prestigious experience in the most gorgeous courtroom that everyone gathers to watch. It is a very big deal for members of the judicial program.” This event is open to whomever would like to attend, it is a very educational as well as entertaining experience that you do not want to miss.