The Trial of Hernan Cortes

According to Napoleon Bonaparte, “history is the version of past events that people have agreed upon.” It is the job of the historian to examine the people and events of the past, not as we have perceived them to be, but as they actually occurred. This is especially true regarding controversial characters and issues. This is our opportunity to call the dead to account for their lives and put their legacies on trial using accounts and artifacts relating to the lives they led. This is History on Trial.

Accused: Hernan Cortes de Monroy y Pizarro.

Born 1485 in Medellin, Castille, Spain.

Died December 2, 1547 at Castilleja de la Cuesta, Castille, Spain.

 

Complaint: Hernan Cortes is accused of being one of history’s villains. An eternal legacy tainted with the sins of his life’s actions. According to the laws of history, as taken from the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982, Hernan Cortes is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

 

Defense Plea: Hernan Cortes has entered a plea of Not Guilty according to Section 16(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code, which states that due to the worldview from which he came and the situation surrounding his life, he cannot be held responsible for his actions. The law states that “No person is criminally responsible for an act committed… while suffering from a mental disorder that rendered the person incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act… or of knowing that it was wrong.” Cortes’ witnesses shall state that he was being true to his beliefs and was incapable of understanding that his decisions were morally wrong.

 

This is the trial of Hernan Cortes.

 

The People of History versus Hernan Cortes

Judges will each examine two of the eight witnesses. They will need to comb through the information provided on each of these witnesses so that they can effectively cross examine them during the trial.

 

The remaining students are broken up into eight groups representing each of the witnesses. They will develop their testimonies based on both the primary and secondary sources provided. Additional research is encouraged! In the following class, each witness will provide a testimony. Each testimony should probably be four or five minutes and should use both the primary and secondary sources provided.

 

The People call all of their witnesses first. Both ways have their advantages. After each witness gives their testimony, they will be cross examined by the judges with their prepared questions. It is very important that both judges and witnesses are filling out their trial transcripts during all of the testimony!

 

At the end have the judges each speak in turn and present their verdict. Will Cortes be sent to the half of history’s evil doers, or will he instead be vindicated by history’s courts?

 

Witnesses

Prosecution

Defense

The defense and prosecution teams, two students each,will each examine two of the eight witnesses. They will need to comb through the information provided on each of these witnesses so that they can effectively cross examine them during the trial.

 

The remaining students are broken up into eight groups representing each of the witnesses. They will develop their testimonies based on both the primary and secondary sources provided. Additional research is encouraged! In the following class, each witness will provide a testimony. Each testimony should probably be four or five minutes and should use both the primary and secondary sources provided.

The People call all of their witnesses first. After each witness gives their testimony, they will be cross examined by the opposing lawyers with their prepared questions. It is very important that both lawyers and witnesses are filling out their trial transcripts during all of the testimony!

 

At the end a jury of five students will be selected randomly and each will speak in turn and present their verdict. Will Henry be sent to the half of history’s evil doers, or will he instead be vindicated by history’s courts?

Contact Mr. Berrigan

Tel: 403-938-1400

berriganm@fsd38.ab.ca

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© 2015 by Matthew Berrigan .