Baylor Law Students Preparing for Titanic Trial

July 1, 2005

by Alan Hunt, (254) 710-6271

Baylor law students will focus on one of history's biggest maritime disasters - the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912 with the loss of more than 1,500 lives - during their "Big Trial" court program, which gets under way on Tuesday, July 5.

"Big Trial," part of Baylor Law School's rigorous Practice Court program, is the closest law students will come to the "real world" they ultimately will face in the legal profession. After months of preparing their cases for trial, it puts them in front of a judge and a jury, where they are expected to conduct themselves in a full trial process, defending or prosecuting, analyzing, and making convincing speeches to juries. At the end of the day, they either celebrate victory - or show grace in defeat.

Professor Gerald R. Powell, who is serving as the Practice Court professor this summer, said, "We have never done anything quite like this in PC (Practice Court) before, and it should be interesting. The trial will last four days rather than the usual one or two days."

Powell said the case will be heard in the Federal Courthouse on Franklin Avenue in downtown Waco, starting at 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday. "We will have a 'real' jury of 12 people from the Baylor Learning in Retirement program. They will hear the case and then render a verdict. It is, as you might imagine, a huge case -- over 1,000 pages of witness testimony from the actual people involved in the Titanic disaster. There will be computer simulations as well as photos and video of the actual wreck of the Titanic."

The Royal Mail Ship Titanic left Great Britain on her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912, commanded by Capt. Edward J. Smith. On the night of April 14, in the frigid waters of the Atlantic, the Titanic struck an iceberg and started sinking. The ship later broke in two and went down with more than 1,500 of its 2,220 passengers and crew. Only 705 people survived.

Powell said 10 law students will participate in the trial as lawyers, and many more will serve as witnesses. "Some of our best students are trying the case," Powell added, pointing out the significance of the Big Trial program during their law school education. "The Big Trial is the capstone of the Practice Court program," he said. "Every student must do a big trial."

Baylor Law School's nationally renowned Practice Court program is one of the best in the country and the school's reputation for advocacy training has spread far and wide. The U.S.News & World Report rated Baylor Law School's trial advocacy program as the sixth best in the nation in its recently released 2006 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools."

For more information about the Titanic trial, Powell can be reached at 254.710.3611. A member of the Baylor law faculty since 1986, Powell serves as the Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence.

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