Courts in the Classroom
Supreme Court of Indiana
Division of State Court Administration
30 S. Meridian Street, Ste 500
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dr. Elizabeth R. Osborn
Public History and
2011 Outstanding Public
History Project Award
from the National Council
on Public History
*This case was chosen by staff within the judicial branch as a useful tool to teach an interesting aspect of the law. Its selection has no bearing on how the case will ultimately be decided. Since the members of the court did not participate in the preparation of the lesson plan, the issues raised in it will not necessarily be addressed in the oral argument.
This lesson is based on the case of Ritter v. Stanton, but it can also be used as a stand-alone lesson on the constitutional right to trial by jury. The case summary, the briefs of the appellants (Ritter and Kroger Co.) and the appellees (Jerry and Ruth Stanton), and the one-hour webcast of the November 14, 2001 oral argument before the Indiana Supreme Court for Ritter v. Stanton are all available on-line here.
A separate lesson, giving an overview of the structure of Indiana's court system, is also available to provide students with general information about how Indiana courts works from the Courts in the Classroom homepage.
A glossary of legal terms used in this and other Courts in the Classroom lesson plans is available on-line as well.
At the end of this lesson students should be able to understand:
We take for granted the right to trial by a jury of our peers, but this is not, and never has been, a universal right. Ask students to think about why American colonists believed the right to a jury trial was worth fighting (and dying) to protect. The Framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were similarly concerned with protecting what they perceived as a fundamental right. Many organizations have webpages that provide historical information about juries. The Arizona Supreme Court has a short history of the jury in the United States. The British Broadcasting Company's (BBC's) website also offers some English history on this topic. The Constitutional Rights Foundation offers extensive on-line material covering a variety of jury related subjects.
After opening arguments, presentation of evidence and/or witnesses, closing arguments, and instructions by the judge, the matter is turned over to the jury for deliberation. Again the differences in civil and criminal cases are important. In civil cases the judge tells the jury the appropriate law and the jury determines the facts. In criminal cases, the Indiana Constitution gives juries considerable authority to determine the law as well as the facts (review Article 1 Section 19). Once the jury reaches a verdict, it has completed the bulk of its work. In civil trials the jury may determine the damages to be awarded - most often a dollar amount. In criminal cases the sentencing is carried out by the judge. As appropriate, however, the jury may be asked to make a recommendation concerning a sentence of death.
U.S. History 1.1 Explain major ideas about government and key rights, rooted in the colonial and founding periods, which are embedded in key documents.
U.S. Government.1.9 Explain how the rule of law, embodied in a constitution, limits government to protect the rights of individuals.
U.S. Government.2.6: Define and provide examples of fundamental principles and values of American political and civic life, including liberty, the common good, justice, equality, tolerance, law and order, rights of individuals….
U.S. Government.5.7: Describe the ways that individuals can serve their communities and participate responsibly in civil society and the political process at local, state, and national levels of government.
This lesson plan was written by Elizabeth R. Osborn, Special Assistant to the Chief Justice for Court History and Public Education. If you have any questions about this lesson, or ORAL ARGUMENTS ONLINE, feel free to contact her at (317) 233-8682 or elizabeth.osborn@courts.IN.gov.