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Interactive Mock Trial Used As Educational Resource

Although July and August are understandably a slow time for the Education Department, we hosted a group of teachers from Hanover County Public Schools in late July for a tour and Mock Trial and we’ll be doing it again in later August for those Hanover County English teachers who missed the first time around.  Education Coordinator Dean Knight gave the group of 14 a tour of the four buildings of the museum then gathered them in the Poe Shrine for the “Tell-Tale Heart Mock Trial.”

For those unfamiliar with the Mock Trial, it’s our most popular offering for school groups and it works really well for adults, too!  We take Poe’s great story “The Tell-Tale Heart” and treat it as though it were testimony from a murderer on trial in a courtroom.  Before we read the story, we “cast” several roles:  judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney and jury foreman.  Everyone else is on the jury!

How Does It Work?

The judge calls the court to order and the defendant (a Poe staffer, typically the Education Coordinator) takes the stand.  Poe’s story serves as his testimony.  Then the lawyers take turns cross-examining the defendant–the prosecutor wants to show that the defendant is sane and thus responsible for his actions, so that he can be found guilty.  The defense attorney wants to show that the defendant is insane and thus not responsible for his actions.  Note that this means that the defendant is often at odds with his own lawyer, since the defendant has no doubt that he is perfectly sane!

The lawyers then present their closing arguments to the jury, which then decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity.  The judge gets to decide what happens to the defendant based on the verdict!

Hittin’ The Road!

Our Education Coordinator will be taking the Mock Trial on the road to teachers from Henrico County at the end of the month–teachers from all over Henrico will gather at Varina High School to do the Mock Trial before school starts for the year.

We’ve also got a new booking for a group of Chinese students studying at Virginia Commonwealth University–they’ll be doing a tour and a Mock Trial this coming Wednesday, August 9.

Interested in bringing your group to the Poe Museum for a tour, Mock Trial, or more?

Contact our Education Coordinator, Dean Knight, at or 804-648-5523 Ext. 221.

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