Grades 4-6: Due Process Freedoms
Yertle the Turtle Mock Trial
Roles for Students
Attorney(s) for the Plaintiff
Your responsibility is to represent Sadie. You will do your best to explain to the jury that Yertle abused his authority and that Sadie was injured as a result of his action. Because Sadie is a young turtle, she did not know how to protect herself when Yertle was so demanding. You may also argue that it is important to teach Yertle that even a king may not order other turtles around without good reason.
Witnesses for the Plaintiff
You were the turtle at the bottom of the stack. You felt as if you were being bullied by the king and were afraid to object until you couldn't stand it any longer. You may testify that Yertle did not listen to you even when you did complain to him. You too have had shell problems since that dreadful day in the pond. You believe that Yertle should be held responsible for Sadie's misfortune.
You are a member of the Turtle Council. You have been elected by all the turtles and feel a responsibility to make sure that they are all treated fairly. You feel that King Yertle often thinks only of himself and ignores the rights and needs of others. You hope that the jury will agree with you and order Yertle to stop pushing everyone around and pay for Sadie's medical expenses.
You work for Yertle as his assistant, and you enjoy most of the work you do. But sometimes Yertle can be very mean, and you are afraid to speak up because he is the king. You have never complained before, and you are afraid that Yertle will fire you if you stand up for Sadie. Yet, you feel that Sadie's rights have been violated, and you must take the risk and speak up for her.
You are a physician who specializes in the treatment of reptiles. You have been Sadie's doctor since the day she was hatched and know that she has always been a healthy turtle. After she fell off the stack of turtles and into the pond, you examined her and determined that there was a thin crack in her shell. You have treated similar cracks before and know that they may cause pain and suffering for many years, although sometimes they eventually heal. You do know that Sadie will need special care. She will not be able to go to school or play with other turtles for a long while.
You hurt your shell when you fell from the stack of turtles that Yertle ordered you to be a part of. You do not think that it was fair that Yertle told you to climb up on the other turtles, but you obeyed because your parents had always told you to respect your elders and royalty. Now you have a serious shell injury and cannot play with your friends, or even go to school. You are very sad and worried about the future. You think that Yertle, even if he is a king, did not behave properly and should be held responsible for his actions.
You are Sadie's mother, and you are very upset. Your beautiful young daughter was injured because a tyrant ordered her to climb onto a stack of turtles. Yertle did not use good judgment by asking a young turtle to do such a thing. You also feel it was selfish of him to order other turtles to do something dangerous. You want the jury to order Yertle to pay for all Sadie's expenses and never take advantage of other turtles again.
Attorney(s) for the Defense
Your responsibility is to defend Yertle. You may argue that Yertle is the king and, as protector of the realm, has a right to order his subjects to do whatever he thinks is necessary. He thought it was necessary to see what was beyond his pond and pressed other turtles into service so that he could see that far. They were hurt in the line of duty, so he wasn't personally liable for Sadie's injury. He did not realize how young she was, or he wouldn't have ordered her to join the stack of turtles.
Witnesses for the Defense
You are Yertle's sister, and you believe that Yertle has a traditional right to tell other turtles what to do. You may argue that royalty may not be sued because they are the only ones in a position to know what's best for everyone in their kingdom, given that monarchs have all the information, plus the best advisors to help interpret it. Someday you may become queen, and you do not want the turtles to think that there will be limits on your power to set policy. You want the jury members to know that, when you are queen, you will make decisions based on what you think is best for the kingdom. Yertle has this same right today, and he is not responsible for Sadie's shell injury.
You are the royal physician, and you are a turtle. You have taken care of the royal family for many years and are an expert in turtle health, including the resistance, durability, and recuperative powers of the turtle shell. You want the jury to know that Dr. Lyn is nothing but a thin-skinned lizard who is hardly qualified to treat turtles, much less testify in their behalf. You may tell the jury that Sadie's injuries are not serious, and you are sure that, while she is quite shaken, she will be much better very soon. In fact, she may be exaggerating how much pain she actually feels, as youngsters sometimes do when they want or need attention. Yertle should not have to pay for a limp lizard to treat Sadie.
You are insulted that members of your kingdom would even think that they have a right to question your judgment, or to sue you. Subjects may not sue a king. You do not think that the court, or members of the jury, have the authority to tell you what to do. You may tell the jurors that they are not respecting the authority of the royal family and should go home and back to work where they belong.
You are an old turtle and know what the kingdom was like a long time ago. Today, some turtles think that they do not have to obey the rule of the king. They are wrong. In the old days, the people always did what the king told them to do and led happy and healthy lives. That is why you have lived so long yourself. All the king's subjects should show their respect for him and not embarrass him.
You are Yertle's best friend. You believe that he really cares about the people in his kingdom. When he is bored, he sometimes does foolish things. He does not usually act the way that he did in the swamp the day that the turtles fell into the pond. Yertle has a lot of responsibilities and is under a lot of stress. Creatures in this condition sometimes act mean. The jurors should understand that a king's life is difficult and they should not create more problems for poor Yertle. Or for themselves. Any money paid to Sadie will have to come out of the national treasury, Yertle's only source of wealth. Do the people want their taxes to pay for Sadie's injury?