Jem Finch: Murderer? Our 9th Graders Decide!

Last week, our 9th Grade English classes held a Mock Trial as part of their reading of To Kill a Mockingbird. The scenario presented to the 9th Grade English classes by Mr. McKenna, Mrs. Walbroehl, Mr. Burke and Mrs. Stein was as follows:


Did Jem Finch murder Bob Ewell?

Spurred by the relentless urging of the grieving Ewell family, a federal investigation was opened in the wake of Bob Ewell’s “accidental” death.  Investigators found “troubling” inconsistencies in Sheriff Heck Tate’s original investigation.

After a lengthy inquiry, the federal investigators brought charges against Jem Finch, Atticus Finch, and Sheriff Heck Tate.  The prosecution alleges that Jem Finch, under direction of his father, Atticus Finch, murdered Bob Ewell on Halloween night.  Further, the prosecution asserts that following the murder, Atticus Finch along with Sheriff Tate, covered up the murder by creating the false story of Ewell “falling on his kitchen knife.”

The questions before our court: was Bob Ewell murdered?  If so, did Jem Finch murder him under orders of his father?  If not Jem, did someone else murder him and why?


Students took their work seriously, preparing the arguments, questioning of witnesses and dressing their parts. Each class had its own trial, with some students playing the role of the prosecution team, defense team, witnesses, judge and jury. Through the work on the mock trial, students needed to communicate their understanding of the acts and motivations of the various characters in this seminal work.

(Thank you to Mr. Burke for some of the photos included in this post.)

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