Jury Duty (A Ballad for Donnie Drayton)

Jury Duty 2

  • 6 black men or women who were sentenced by a jury to jail time – either for something they did not do or for an abnormally long amount for time considering the crime
  • 1 auditorium full of elementary school students and their parents
  • 12 chairs
  • 1 microphone
  • 6 index cards
  • Pencils
  • 108 score cards  (8″ x 11″ or larger)
  • Markers
  • 1 unfunny prize such as a copy of Clarence Norris’ book The Last of The Scottsboro Boys or a copy of the movie The Central Park Five

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line break white 600 x 1 pixelsSet up 6 chairs on the left side of the stage with 18 score cards and 1 marker on each chair. Set up the other 6 chairs on the right side of the stage. Place the microphone a little to the right of center stage. Explain to the audience that the students have been studying the judicial system and they are holding a contest to see who has the funniest stories about getting out of jury duty. Ask for 6 volunteers from among the parents to share their escaping-jury-duty stories. As they step up, ask them to line up on the right side of the stage and write their names on the index cards.line break white 600 x 1 pixelsWhen the 6 volunteers are lined up, ask each of the judges to give a friendly wave to the audience, state their names, share a 1 or 2 line synopsis of a funny escaping-jury-duty story they’ve heard, then take a seat on the left side of the stage.  line break white 600 x 1 pixelsNext, have the volunteers line up to the right of the stage. One by one, have them step up to the microphone and share their stories. As each volunteer finshes, ask the juges to hold up their scores cards 3 times: once for originality, once for storytelling ability, and once for believabliity. After each volunteer’s story has been rated, ask them to sit down on the right of the stage.

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Tall the juror’s ratings to determine the 3 lowest scoring stories. Then announce that those players have been eliminated. Explain that the audience will vote to determine the winner and that they will get to hear the top 3 storeis again in a minute, but first you want to introduce the jurors. Ask the judges to stand one by one and have a different student introduce each and explain how many years the judge spent in prison for a crime s/he didn’t commit, plus the demographics of the jury that sentenced her/him to prison. Next have a student explain the audience will vote by raising their hands to determine who the contest winner is. Ask contestant #1 if they would still like to share their story. If they opt to share their story take a count of the hands that are raised at the end. Repeat for contestants 2 and 3. If contestant 1 decides to drop out of the contest, allow them to exit and move on to cntestant #2. If contestant #1 and 2 drop out, declare contestant #3 the winner by default and ask if they would like to claim their prize. If they do, explain to the audience what the prize is and give it to him/her. If they opt to not claim their prize, allow them to drop out.

Ask the parents what they thought of the score and invite them to have a discussion with their children about cases like Edmonson vs. Leesville, Donnie Drayton’s, and Martin Luther King Jr’s May, 28, 1960 trial where doing jury duty made a positive difference.

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Black culture or history topic: Compare juried cases like the Scottsboro Boys or The Central Park Five to cases like Edmonson vs. Leesville, Donnie Drayton‘s, and Martin Luther King Jr’s May 28 1960 trial

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Art concepts: Juxtaposition  i.e. placing something next to its opposite to change how people feel about it.


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