Monday, January 14, 2008

Mock Coroner's Inquest

Yesterday, the Rocky Mountain chapter of Sisters in Crime held a Mock Coroner's Inquest. Donnell Bell, the program chair, and Christine Herndon, the El Paso County Deputy Coroner, designed a case scenario and recruited chapter members to play the various witnesses. I was Ruthie Guyless, the first responding police officer, who investigated the death scene, took evidence, and questioned witnesses. Others included Amelia Onlooker, the reporting party, Racine Sharastak, the coroner investigator, Clara de Colon, the pathologist, William Love Levam, the deceased's ex-husband, and Therma Dorr, the victim's roommate. A jury of six was selected from audience members and Ms. Herndon, as the judge, began the inquest to determine the cause of death of the deceased. The officials who investigated the case concluded suicide, but the deceased's mother and the P.I. she hired made a case for homicide.

All of the actors really got into their roles, and many, esp. the roommate (an erotica romance author in real life), who turned out to be a porn star and the deceased's Lesbian lover, had the audience howling in laughter, clutching their stomachs and wiping their eyes. Many suspicious aspects of the case were revealed: the gun that the deceased supposedly used to kill herself belonged to the ex-husband who was cashing in on a large insurance policy, the deceased used illegal drugs and had an anti-depressant prescription from her psychiatrist, the deceased and the roommate had fought the night before because the deceased was going to leave and return to her ex-husband, and the P.I. found the spent shell casing days later that came from a second bullet embedded in a wound on the deceased which was not revealed until the autopsy, and more. The audience was fascinated as the case slowly unraveled.

The whole thing was done with no script and no rehearsals, just a scenario, some character profiles that the actors developed for themselves, instructions from Ms. Herndon as to what kinds of questions she would ask each witness, some technical data she provided, such as a fake autopsy report, toxicology report, and drug paraphernalia evidence, and a lot of ad-libbing. It's been a long time since I've had so much fun!

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