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Activity 3

Essential Question

How do due process and the appeals process apply to current issues?


Technology such as DNA testing has changed the way we determine guilt or innocence. This technology may eventually have a direct impact upon our thinking about due process. We can prove that someone who once was thought to be guilty is innocent because the DNA is not a match for what is found at the scene of a crime.

The attacks on students at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado have raised questions about whether due process rights should be given to public school students. On January 13, 2000, then Governor Bill Ryan of Illinois imposed a moratorium on the state’s death penalty. DNA evidence had exonerated 13 death row inmates. More had been freed from death row as a result of DNA evidence than had been put to death since 1977, when the death penalty was reinstated in Illinois. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 also have raised questions about the conflict between due process and the safety of large numbers of people. This conflict became most apparent in our treatment of the prisoners from the war in Afghanistan. For almost two years the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Cuba were not given the right of presumption of innocence, the right to counsel, or habeas corpus.

Instructional Strategies

Strategy 1

Writing Across the Curriculum: Journals

Talk about how DNA evidence is increasing the importance of the Appeals Process. You may want to quote some of the statistics related to how many death row inmates have recently been exonerated through DNA evidence.

Discuss how the tragedies of 9/11 and Columbine have impacted how we consider individual rights.

Review your social studies writing standards and have students take out their journals. Remind students that when writing in their journals, we are more interested in capturing thoughts and ideas and that they can write whatever comes to mind.

Make certain they understand that they can include newspaper and magazine clippings in their journals and as well as any poetry drawings, or even music that they feel helps them understand these issues.

Printable Student View

Check for Understanding

Throughout students’ participation in this activity, check their journals and discuss the contents with them in one to one student-teacher conferences.

Journals should be evaluated based upon:

  • Entries made every day.
  • A clear relationship between what appears in the journal and the issues discussed.
  • Creativity. Each journal should be unique.

Strategy 2

Biographical Studies/Biopoems

Students may do their own research, or you may provide articles from recent newspapers, the internet, or news magazines related to the following people:

  • Former Governor George Ryan of Illinois
  • The prisoners of war currently incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
  • A death row inmate who has won an appeal based upon DNA evidence

Tell students to focus upon each person’s circumstance and who they are as individuals. Remind them that they should enter any notes from their research into their journals.

Have students select one of the individuals they have researched and complete a biopoem about that individual. Make certain you include information about how this person is feeling about due process and individual rights.

Printable Student View


Line 1: First Name
Line 2: Four traits that describe the person
Line 3: Relative (brother, sister, husband, wife, mother, father, etc.)
Line 4: Lover of (list three things or people)
Line 5: Who feels (include thoughts about individual rights here)
Line 6: Who needs (include thoughts about individual rights here)
Line 7: Who fears (include thoughts about individual rights here)
Line 8: Who gives (may be one item clearly described)
Line 9: Who would like to see
Line 10: Resident of
Line 11: Last name or one-word that sums up this person


Strategy 3

Simulation/Role Playing

Explain to students that in order to understand complex issues and make informed decisions related to those issues, it is important to empathize with others who may be impacted by those decisions.

Explain that an effective way to practice empathy is through role-playing. Tell them that the role plays will help better understand the issues related to the appeals process and the protection of individual rights.

Divide the class into four groups. Create a skit involving the protection of individual rights and have each group practice how they would present the skit to the rest of the class.

After each group presents their skits, debrief by discussing the issues involved in the skit.

Printable Student View

Check for Understanding

Write an essay in which you explain why the protection of individual’s rights is a complex issue that must be thought about from more than one perspective. Essays should show that you considered that rights for one person may not mean the same thing to another person. Because of this, protecting the individual rights of an entire country is extremely complicated.

Updated December 27, 2019 7:45am