DANA POINT, Calif. – With over-the-phone directions from a forensic scientist in Scotland, students from the Forensics/Mock Trial class at Thurston Middle School in Laguna Beach recently used high-tech tactics to investigate a murder from 1585.
Based on the historical events of Roanoke, Va., the Lost Colony, the students used a simulated crime scene to investigate and process criminal evidence using current crime scene investigation techniques.
The seventh and eighth grade students examined the dead “body” of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, stepbrother of Sir Walter Raleigh, after it surfaced near the Pilgrim ship in Dana Point Harbor in Dana Point.
Directed by Noelle Martinez from the University of Dundee, the students gathered evidence against John White, accused of killing Raleigh’s brother in a case of mistaken identity. The murder is believed to be a revenge killing for the role Raleigh played in the disappearance of the lost colony of Roanoke.
As part of the hands-on learning experience, a Dana Point Harbor dive team assisted the students with the underwater retrieval of the body. The forensic team documented the retrieval using an underwater robot and a 360-degree camera to preserve the evidence and view the murder scene aboard the Pilgrim ship. The students spent the afternoon analyzing and processing the evidence at the nearby Ocean Institute.
Now in its fourth year, the program exposes students to forensic techniques and how jurors examine evidence to determine criminal negligence. A mock trial to determine White’s guilt or innocence is scheduled for Friday, June 1.
The class is the brainchild of social studies teacher Michelle Martinez and her daughter, Noelle.
“This elective course provides students the chance to experience real life scenarios to assist them with college and career readiness,” Martinez said in a statement. A Cox grant helps support the program.