Science and law lesson culminates in a simulated trial College of Science

“Almost everything involves science,” says Gary R. Skuse, a professor at the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences and co-teacher of Honors Science and the Law: Biological, Ethical and Legal Perspectives. Throughout the course, he highlights how science penetrates the legal profession and ends the course with false court proceedings, giving students the opportunity to use scientific evidence such as cell phone triangulation, medical evaluations, and disaster recovery in the context of a real case.

The mock test has been a key project in the classroom since its inception about five years ago. He explained the trial, which led to a false trial, and said that each year, together with instructor Helen Syme, he began by choosing a real case that they thought was provocative or could go both ways. They edit names and details so students can’t identify the original case. Students are divided into two teams, defense and indictment, and take on the roles of lawyers or experts. In the weeks before the simulated trial, students use part of each class to work on the case in their groups.

Scott Hamilton

Zach Eichner questions expert Ian Freezman.

Skuse and Syme, a fellow faculty member at the College of Science, bring their expertise to classroom discussions with their roles in the criminal justice system.

“I’m a geneticist and I have experience working with local criminal defense attorneys,” Skuse said. He also explained that Syme is a lawyer in criminal proceedings who obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at RIT in 2008.

“This class with real professionals is an amazing experience for a college student,” said Zach Eichner, a third-year student at Lexington, Ky., Who specializes in public policy and underage in cellular and molecular biology. He is also part of the Accelerated 3 + 3 Law Program through the College of Liberal Arts and Syracuse University and has emphasized the importance of being able to understand scientific evidence as a lawyer. “I know I will take the perspective I gained from this course to law school next year and throughout my career.”

Skuse and Syme also incorporate their connections with other legal professionals. Syme, who worked in the field in the Rochester area, invites colleagues to act as jurors, and this year Skuse invited Monroe County Judge Michael Dollinger to preside over the false trial.

“I was nervous about running a lawsuit with a real judge present,” said TJ Larson, third-year game design and development from Hamilton NY. “But when we started, I enjoyed the challenge that came with it.”

The College of Science also uses this class to recruit prospective students and includes class information in presentations during open days.

“There aren’t many universities that have interdisciplinary courses taught by professors and community experts who accept students enrolled in any field,” Skuse said.

As a class event, the simulated exam offers not only an opportunity for students to showcase their work, but also an opportunity to have fun. They added pieces of stupidity to the process, such as the appointment of one expert witness, “Officer Gary Skus,” and another “Dr. Meredith Gray ”after the protagonist of the popular show Grey’s Anatomy.

However, the fun did not detract from the students’ ability to show their hard work.

“The process of combining evidence, creating a narrative, researching science behind data collection, and writing introductory and concluding statements has been incredibly charming and time consuming,” said Jamie Smyth, a second-year biomedical scientist in Warwick. NY “But during the simulated process, I had a lot of fun and remembering it with our classmates with a lot of laughter was a great experience.”

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