Lesson Plan 11: Coroner’s Court

Activities

Activity 1: Introduction to the Role of the Coroner

For this activity, give each student a copy of Handout 1: The Role of the Coroner. This will familiarize them with what a Coroner does, in preparation for Activity 2.

Activity 2: Mock Coroner’s Inquest

For this activity, you may choose either Handout 3: Martin Evans Coroner’s Inquest or the Handout 4: Luke Patel Coroner’s Inquest. The second Coroner’s Inquest may be more challenging as students are not able to compare it to a real jury’s decision.

Mock Coroner’s Inquest for Martin Evans

This mock inquest was based on the actual inquest into the death of Aaron Furssedon, a 15 year old boy. In August 1985 Aaron Furssedon and his friend were on their way to the P.N.E. and while waiting for the bus in New Westminster, decided to play around the newly constructed Sky Train guide way. Aaron was hit and instantly killed by a Sky Train car on a training run. In that inquest, the jury found that Aaron’s death had been accidental, and made the following recommendations:

  1. To ensure an adequately trained person be in supervision at the Sky Train control centre to understand the complete workings of the Sky Train system. This person has the authority to immediately de-energize the system upon request of the emergency services people. This person must understand the consequences of de-energizing the system.
  2. There be available a qualified Sky Train electrical expert that can be dispatched immediately to any emergency site with the equipment necessary to assure emergency services personnel that the system is safe. This Sky Train electrical expert will work closely with the emergency services people enabling a quick response by each emergency service.
  3. In all districts served by the Sky Train each emergency service, i.e., fire, police and ambulance should have a direct phone line to the Sky Train supervisor in the control centre, to ensure there is no delay in receiving and dispatching vital information.
  4. Encourage an organized training program between the Sky Train and emergency services to guarantee they are working together as a unit, each operating under the same guidelines.
  5. Supply information to the general public, including all lower mainland schools, as to the working operations of the Sky Train system.
  6. Maps are produced detailing the Sky Train system noting the location of marked points on the guide ways. The maps should be supplied to all emergency services to that any incident site can be geographically located.
  7. Structural changes should be made to substations to further deter access to the roofs.

Mock Coroner’s Inquest for Luke Patel

This mock inquest is entirely fictional. Participation in this mock inquest offers the students the opportunity to consider their own recommendations for the prevention of future similar deaths without comparison to those prepared by a real jury.

Room Set Up

The room should be set up like a courtroom:

  • The Coroner sits at the front of the room at a table and faces the rest of the room
  • The Court Clerk sits at a table immediately in front of the Coroner and also faces the rest of the room
  • Counsel sit at separate tables (or one long table) facing the Court Clerk, with Inquest Counsel sitting on the Coroner’s left side
  • The jury sits in a row of chairs at the side of the room, also on the Coroner’s left side
  • The sheriff should stand between the jury and the Coroner
  • You can put a “public gallery” at the back of the room for spectators

Division of Roles

The mock inquest includes the following roles:

  • 1 Coroner
  • 1 Court Clerk
  • 1 Deputy Sheriff
  • 3-9 Counsel
  • 5 Witnesses
  • 5 Jury Members

Total: 16-22 students

The most demanding roles are the counsel roles, especially Inquest Counsel. It is best to assign at least two counsel to each party (there are three parties total) which enables those assigned to counsel roles to work as a team in preparing their witness questions. While there are only 5 jurors on an inquest jury, feel free to add more jurors if necessary. Because the jury has an active role – the jury members must come up with recommendations to prevent similar deaths – adding several other jurors is fine.

Materials Assigned to Students

Each student will be given a copy of Handout 2: Inquest Script Summary so they are aware of Inquest procedure. In addition, students should get a role sheet according to the part they have been assigned to play (use Handout 3: Martin Evans Coroner’s Inquest and Handout 4: Luke Patel Coroner’s Inquest). It may also be helpful to provide each student with a copy of the Coroner’s Role sheet and the Jury’s Role sheet to highlight how an inquest is different from a trial.

Meeting with Witnesses

Counsel should meet with the witnesses they will call on direct examination to ask them questions and prepare for the inquest. They should not meet with the witnesses the other counsel will call. Each witness role sheet will indicate which counsel has called the witness.

Other Options for Preparation

In an actual inquest many documents are introduced as exhibits throughout the proceeding. The procedure for how this is done during the inquest is explained in the Court Clerk role sheet. Exhibits have not been prepared for this exercise, and the mock inquest is designed to work without any exhibits. However, if you would like to assign extra work to a student with a less demanding role, or to all the students, you can get them to create exhibits for use during the mock inquest. Some examples of exhibits which could be prepared include:

  • An ambulance attendant report
  • Photos of the location where the deceased died
  • The pathologist’s report