'Toto, I Have a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore': Using the Wizard of Oz to Introduce Students to the Skills of Witness Examination

44 Pages Posted: 8 May 2007

See all articles by Stephen D. Easton

Stephen D. Easton

University of Wyoming - College of Law


In the classroom, exercises designed to give students experience questioning witnesses before handling real cases for clients in clinics or in practice usually involve simulations. In these simulations, a student "witness" is asked to memorize a sheet of facts that she hypothetically "observed." Unfortunately, this leads to a dynamic quite different than the one students will face when questioning their clinic clients or other witnesses. An actor pretending to be someone else will struggle as a witness, of course, but the struggles will be to try to remember something on the "fact sheet" or to fill in its gaps.

This article outlines an exercise that clinic and trial advocacy instructors can use, with very little advance preparation, to present a more realistic experience. In this simulation, the "witnesses," though fellow students, will struggle not with fictional memories, but with their own memories, when they take the stand as "Dorothy" from The Wizard of Oz. As student attorneys ask questions to try to elicit certain facts that Dorothy observed, they see themselves and other students struggle to obtain the desired testimony. They also see Dorothy answer questions correctly, incorrectly, and not at all (i.e., "I do not know" or "I do not remember"). Even after a witness who saw the movie the previous night takes the stand, challenges and problems continue. The students' struggles provide opportunities for the instructor to introduce important lessons about direct and, to a more limited extent, cross-examination.

Suggested Citation

Easton, Stephen D., 'Toto, I Have a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore': Using the Wizard of Oz to Introduce Students to the Skills of Witness Examination. Clinical Law Review, Vol. 12, p. 283, 2006; U of Missouri-Columbia School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2007-08; NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 07/08-15. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=985171

Stephen D. Easton (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming - College of Law

P.O. Box 3035
Laramie, WY 82071
United States

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