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Shakespeare Theatre Company Presents Mock Trial: Romeo & Juliet: Wrongful Deaths?

The Shakespeare Theatre Company presents its Winter Mock Trial at Sidney Harman Hall (610 F Street NW) on Monday, December 12, 2016. The Trial begins at 7 p.m. Guests are invited to hear Romeo & Juliet: Wrongful Deaths? a wrongful death suit issued by the Montagues and the Capulets against Friar Laurence. The prosecution will argue that the Friar engaged in a number of negligent, reckless and intentional acts and his actions and inactions were legally a proximate cause of the untimely and tragic deaths of both Romeo and Juliet. The case will be argued before a panel of judges presided over by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. will be accompanied by Judge Thomas B. Griffith, United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; Judge Robert L. Wilkins, United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia and Elizabeth B. Prelogar, Assistant to the Solicitor General will argue the case. The Trial will be moderated by Abbe D. Lowell, chair of the STC Bard Association and member of STC’s Board of Trustees.

Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of Shakespeare Theatre Company, says: “Romeo & Juliet continues to speak to all of us in new ways because how we think about the issues and relationships in this play changes depending on the decade. The Mock Trial allows us to explore these moral and ethical questions through a modern legal lens and examine a very familiar story from a new perspective.”

Since 1994, the Shakespeare Theatre Company has hosted a Mock Trial based on a play from STC’s mainstage season. The fictional court case poses a legal question, or questions, and the audience must act as the jury to decide the fate of the characters. The Trial aims to examine the links between classic works and contemporary legal theory in a way that is both thought-provoking and entertaining. This past June, the Annual Dinner and Mock Trial  Winston vs. Oceania-1984 focused on the national security and surveillance issues presented in George Orwell’s novel 1984 and the treatment of Winston Smith by the State of Oceania.

In the scenario for the upcoming Winter Trial, we learn that Friar Laurence pled in defense that the enmity between the Montagues and Capulets caused these tragic deaths. He argued that his actions were neither negligent nor wrongful, but were intended to prevent Romeo and Juliet from carrying out their separately stated intentions of committing suicide, a grievous sin in the eyes of the Church. Friar Laurence stated that it was unreasonable pressure and expectations created by the Montague and Capulet families and their mutual animosity that forced Romeo and Juliet to take drastic actions. He also stated his motives were not only to allow young adults with their own power of consent to validate their love in the eyes of heaven, but also to merge the two families and bring peace to the community—all goals well within his official duties and the teachings of the Church. Friar Laurence defended himself further by arguing that it was his messenger’s cowardice, triggered by an infectious disease in Mantua, that caused his plan’s failure, and that it was the selling of poison to Romeo that was really the act that caused the chain of events. The case was tried by a jury, which heard the evidence about the events. Deliberating over two full days, the jury found in favor of the Montagues and Capulets against Friar Laurence, determining that he was 70% the cause of Romeo’s and Juliet’s deaths and that the families’ history and their respective actions after the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt were 30% of the cause. Friar Laurence appealed, arguing that the jury’s verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence and contrary to law because he was not negligent at all and, if he was, he was no more responsible than the Plaintiffs themselves.

The advocates will be presented with the question: Was Friar Laurence negligent? And if so, was the jury’s assessment of comparative fault supported by the evidence in the


Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Mock Trial is sponsored by the Bard Association, STC’s affinity group for Washington’s legal community.

ABOUT THE BARD ASSOCIATION: The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Bard Association offers lawyers and other individuals with legal ties the opportunity to experience classical theatre at its finest while building both personal and professional relationships. This unique affinity group provides a valuable connection between the legal community and the arts, through networking opportunities, enriching panel discussions and programs, including the popular Mock Trial event. The panel discussions and other events conduct in-depth examinations into the roles of lawyers and legal issues in many Shakespeare plays and other classic theatre pieces.

Membership in the Bard Association transforms the individual experience from occasional ticket buyer to dedicated patron of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Members of the Bard Association enjoy exclusive benefits such as advance ticket purchase for the Mock Trial and Shakespeare and the Law events, “behind-the-scenes” access to the theatre and the chance to create a greater awareness of the importance of the arts. This group is unique to the region and provides a valuable connection between the legal community and the arts world.


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