The jury again said "guilty."
For the second year in a row, a jury of Iowa State students returned a guilty verdict in a Dec. 5 reenactment of a landmark trial in Bill Simpkins’ hydrogeology course.
For 11 years Bill’s students have been reenacting a 1986 Massachusetts environmental trial that resulted in a 1995 book and a 1998 John Travolta film with the same name, “A Civil Action.” The trial was brought by Woburn, Mass., residents who charged that three companies had allowed chemicals to leak into the groundwater and contaminate their drinking water.
"Overall, I was again surprised by the verdict,” Simpkins said. “The teams this year were evenly matched and both did a good job of presenting evidence and casting doubt on each other’s testimony.”
Besides being an excellent, science-based learning exercise, students have fun by dressing for their parts. I’ve seen them as gussied-up lawyers and pocket protector-wearing scientific witnesses. The tally now after 11 years: plaintiffs 7, defendants 4. You can see a related article in the spring 2013 edition of LAS’ Link magazine. The "trial" was held in Morrill Hall, where I worked and many large bats lived two decades ago before the building was beautifully restored.