331 – Assignment 1.2

Assignment 1.2

As stated in Chapter 2 of your text, critical thinking involves an integrated set of thinking abilities and attitudes, including thinking actively, exploring situations, thinking independently, viewing situations from different perspectives, and discussing ideas in an organized way. For this assignment, you will analyze a fictional court case with Mary Barnett as the defendant.  First, read the information in Chapter 2 regarding the case. Then analyze the key dimensions of this court case and give a verdict.  Synthesize your thoughts regarding this case in a few paragraphs in which you explain the reasons and evidence that influenced your verdict. Then add your responses to any three of the following analysis questions at the end of your paragraphs.


I find Ms. Barnett guilty of the crime of second-degree murder: intentional murder without premeditation. As I read the case, the first impression that stuck with me throughout the rest of the story was that she had told the police she knew she left the baby behind, did not intend to come back, and that she knew Alison would die in a day or two. Being six months old, Alison was one hundred percent reliant on her mother, and Mary knew leaving her for any amount of time would be detrimental to the health and safety of her child. Her responsibility.

As I tried to keep an open mind and put myself in the shoes of both defense and prosecution, I weighed the stories and tried to discern the facts from opinion or emotion. I relied less on testimony that indicated she was just a party girl and drank all the time. Although this may have had something to do with her decision to leave Alison, the real question was did Mary leave Alison alone knowing she would die.

I also compared the two doctor’s statements in helping me determine a verdict. A lot of what they said contradicted each other and so trustworthiness was key in their testimony. The prosecution had been involved with many of these types of cases where the defense had not.

I also took much weight in the officer’s testimony. They are trained to collect facts and be able to weed out opinion and emotion from their reports. He stated that Mary indicated she tried to get a babysitter and, not being able to find one, still left Alison alone. This spoke volumes to me in terms of her knowing what she was about to do and what it would do to her child.

Reflect on your own deliberations of the Mary Barnett case and describe the reasoning process you used to reach a verdict. Did you find that you were composing a continuing story to explain the testimony you were reading? If so, was this story changed or modified as you learned more information?

My reasoning is described in the paragraphs above but I definatley found myself composing the story in my mind. I developed mental pictures at every step. Every time a different witness “spoke,” I imagined what the scene was like. The vision and the story does change with every bit of testimony and how it plays out if she is guilty, or not guilty. I play each piece in my mind and also consider biases. What if the apartment this took place were in the projects vs a gated community? What if all of her other neighbors liked her? What was Alison dressed in and how was she left in the apartment? And on and on.

Explain how factors from your own personal experience (age, gender, experience with children, and so on) may have influenced your verdict and the reasoning process that led up to it.

This is probably the hardest part of making a decision such as this: trying to remove your own biases from the decision itself. As I reflect on how my personal expeiences may have influenced my verdict, I look at several of the values I have held true throughout my life. One of those values is preservation of life. I personally don’t believe in abortion or the death penalty or war or any other activity where a life is taken at someone’s whim. I look at the age of the victim in this case and think how senseless it was and how she was robbed of life because of someone elses poor decisions.

As I think of these, however, I also ask myself, “am I making this based on my values?” Am I making the decision because Mary disgusts me? All of that aside, I still go back to the fact she told the police she knew she was leaving Alison and that she knew she would would die.

Explain how your beliefs about human nature may have influenced your analysis of Mary Barnett’s motives and behavior.

My first reading of the testimony left me somewhat empathetic to Mary’s argument. But I also questioned Mary’s motives and behavior and wondered how anyone could do this to their child. I do agree that she has mental issues and should have psychiatric care. Who else would leave their child to die? But this is not an excuse to get out of the just and right punishment either. The question of human nature does play into the mix as no one in their right mind would even consider such and act but, on the same token, who would stick a bomb in their pants and try to blow up a plane. I think that is crazy too but wouldn’t consider a mental competency trial for that person.

2 Replies to “331 – Assignment 1.2”

  1. 4.Explain wheter you believe that the research strategies lawyers are using to select the “right” jury for their cases are undermining the fairness of the justice system in the Mary Barnett’s case.
    5.According to the article in the book, judges are vulnerable to the same psychological influences,biases,and errors in reasoning as are jurors and the rest of the general population. To what five “cognitive illusions” are judges susceptiblem, as revealed in the research conducted by psychologist Jeffrey J. Rachlinski? Explain how cognitive illusions might play a role in determining the guilt or innocence of Mary Barnett.
    6.Judges’ reasoning processes are also influenced by universal cultural themes and mythic patterns,according to Anthony Amsterdam and Jerome Bruner. Think of two different archetypal stories, fairy tales, or myths, and explain how these might influence a judge to find Mary Barnett guilty or innocent.

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