Doctor on trial in monster of a case

Frankenstein put on trial to raise funds for humanities program

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Law student Michael Murphy (prosecutor) interrogates Laura Penny (the Creature) (Photo: Alison Murray)

More than 100 people packed into Alumni Hall at the University of King's College, waiting in anticipation for the Weldon Literary Moot Society's mock trial to begin Thursday evening.

Around 7:30 p.m., the fundraiser Frankenstein on Trial began with opening speeches and statements by the defence and plaintiff, leaving the large crowd ... in an uproar of laughter.

The accused, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, was on trial for negligence by his creation, the monster.

The trial was made up of third-year law students, professors from King's, Dalhousie's Schulich School of Law , Saint Mary's University, a performer from the comedy troupe Picnicface, professional lawyers and a judge.

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Honourable Peter M.S. Bryson looks on as law student Meghan Smith (defense) asks Dr. Frankenstein a few questions (Photo: Alison Murray)

The actors

Presiding over the mock trial for the second time was the Honourable Peter M. S. Bryson of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. He says he participates in the event because, not only is he an alumnus of King's and Dal Law but "it's a great program and it's supporting a wonderful cause."

The man on trial, Dr. Frankenstein, was played by Bill Wood of Picnicface.

"It's weird how you get wrapped up in wanting to win and you're like 'No he's not a bad guy.'"

Woods says he felt "pretty sure I'm going to lose this one. But you kinda want to win," he said of his role, having initially been concerned over having never read the novel.

King's professor Laura Penny played the monster. She said performing the creature was "Sweaty!" but she added, "I'm totally willing to make a goof of myself for a good cause. I love this program, it does amazing things."

The cause

"It's absolutely terrific that the law school volunteers to fundraise for us," said Penny. She has been involved with Halifax Humanities 101, the non-credit, great-books program, since it began in 2005.

Mary-Lu Redden is director of the program. She says Humanities 101 is "basically offers pretty much the equivalent of the Foundation Year [program], here at King's, but for people who have low incomes and can't afford to go to university."

"It's not quite as many readings as the Foundation Year, but fairly similar structure, chronological approach, great books, taught by people who volunteer their time," she said.

Due to increasing demand, the program now offers Wednesday classes (in addition to Tuesday and Thursday classes) to those who have completed the first year.

This is the second year the Weldon Literary Moot Society has held the fundraiser theatrical trial, even though the society wasn't fully formed last year.

"We were doing mock trials at school for marks and we thought it would be a good idea to have the fun of mock trials and support a charity that we all really liked," said society founder Ben Franken.

With last year's event being a success, the group decided to make it an annual event.

"This year we've been setting up a society and including lower years in law school so they can do it again next year and the year after," he said.

Franken previously tutored for Halifax Humanities 101.

The verdict

After much laughter and the deliberation of the jury (consisting of Humanities 101 students), Dr. Frankenstein was found liable for negligence.

"We're a little disappointed in the verdict. We think that Dr. Frankenstein isn't necessarily the most likeable person, so it was a bit of a risk to put him on the stand in the first place," said third year law student and defense lawyer to the doctor, Meghan Smith. "I think he's a misunderstood genius and it's really unfortunate."

Meanwhile, prosecutor Michael Murphy, also a third year law student, said "I couldn't be happier, my client couldn't be happier. I think the jury made the right decision." 

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