Testing the Fugitive Slave Law: MLK Game Loft Event a Success!
The Game Loft’s mock trial involving the Fugitive Slave Law achieved new heights of role playing excitement and education. Under guidance of guest bailiff (and honorable judge) Susan Longley, Game Loft member Nathan presided over the case, set in the historically pivotal year 1858. James and John Williams the teenaged defendants accused of willfully harboring and transporting a fugitive slave, “Gus”, in an attempt to expedite his escape to Canada.
Belfast's Unitarian Universalist Church provided the perfect venue for the occasion.
Taran and Madryn battled for patronage among the politically-minded onlookers, hawking opposing political newspapers including the abolitionist “New Salem Gazette” and the states’ rights “Dalais Democrat.”
Trial audience members became impassioned as well; Charles Erb and Neil Peterson disrupted the proceedings with loud outbursts against the evils of slavery. Police Captain Rio escorted the protestors outside of the courtroom to a temporary holding cell.
Prosecuting attorney Jim Munch called three witnesses, including Deputy Marshall Max Delaney, local deputy Andrew Knight, and the director of a cooperage and casket making company, Kali Rocheleau. Defense attorney Irwin Brown elected not to call any witnesses, advising his clients to plead the Fifth Amendment when called. He rested his case on the alleged inability of the prosecution to prove without a doubt the guilt of the accused.
While the jury deliberated, audience members and participants had the option of sitting in on the deliberations or, alternatively, participating in a Restorative Justice Project circle discussion, led by Kali Rocheleau.
The jury’s verdict of not-guilty seemed to agree with Mr. Brown’s conclusion, although the jury issued a statement following the verdict indicating suspicion of the accused being used as pawns by some other, perhaps older, unnamed abolitionist party.
Despite weather conditions, the event was an unabashed success, with approximately 50 people in attendance. It marks the first in what will become an annual MLK tradition for the Game Loft. Next year, we're considering the possibility of period costumes for the key roles.