Warren County Career Center students in the Legal Office Technology and Criminal Justice programs collaborate each year on a Mock Trial project. The students create a crime scenario and Criminal Justice students investigate. Legal students prepare for the trial as defense and prosecution attorneys and other courtroom positions such as bailiff. Graphic Arts juniors Delaney Evans, Franklin; Kimrya Green, Lebanon; Kat Allen, Little Miami; and Audrey Wray, Franklin; served as courtroom sketch artists. Warren County Juvenile Judge Joe Kirby presided over the mock trial in his courtroom.
This year’s “crime” was a theft of a computer from the Information Technology lab, involving two IT students. Senior Chase Swain, Franklin, was accused of the theft, and senior Jacob Meadows, Franklin, reported the theft to “campus police” officer Ashley Weimer, Lebanon, a senior in Criminal Justice. The senior Criminal Justice class, Cianna Drake, Lebanon; Peter Hale, Springboro; Jacob Long, Lebanon; Jefferson McIntosh, Middletown; Maia Rosselott, Little Miami; Austin Seldon, Little Miami; Madison Stover, Franklin; Ashley Weimer, Lebanon; and Brandon Wergowske, Waynesville; investigated the incident.
“I took the initial report from Jacob,” Ashley Weimer said. “Our class then investigated the IT lab. We confiscated the computer that had been put in place of the one that was stolen, and took photos and fingerprints.”
The class reviewed the school’s real security camera footage, and saw the staged “crime” unfold as the accused, Chase Swain, walked out of his IT lab carrying a computer. They interviewed Jacob Meadows, who reported the incident, four times and then interviewed Chase. They conducted a search on his car and found the “stolen” computer. During the interrogation, conducted by Peter Hale and Jacob Long in a room adjacent to their lab, the rest of the Criminal Justice seniors watched via Google Hangouts and were able to suggest questions to ask.
Once the charges were filed, the students gave the information to prosecution and defense teams in the Legal Office program to prepare for the trial. Warren County Juvenile Court Judge Joe Kirby opened his courtroom for the students and presided over the mock trial. The defense team was made up of Legal Office juniors Cade Riddell, Franklin; Jadyn Butcher, Greater Ohio Virtual School; Maddie Lawson, Waynesville; and defense paralegal Kylee Trivillo, Little Miami. The prosecution team was made up of Legal Office senior Emily LeMasters, Springboro; and juniors Alexandra Terrell, Kings, Melissa Gallacher, Lebanon; and prosecution paralegal Ashley Liddil, Ross. Junior Emily Manis, Little Miami, was bailiff, and senior Gabby Freeman, Little Miami, was in the Records Department.
Jurors were Legal Office seniors Jade Buckland, Waynesville; Meghan Firman, Lebanon; Brandy Hamric, Waynesville; Madison Meadows, Franklin; Patricia Meece, Waynesville; Maddie Shivers, Lebanon; Jennifer Solis Munoz, Lebanon; Abigail Suffridge, Springboro; and Bailey Lutz, Little Miami.
“I was impressed by how seriously the students took it,” Judge Kirby said. “They were well prepared; they were dressed professionally. It was more than what I expected from a high school group. I went into the jury room as they were deliberating and the students were in a heated argument over guilt or innocence. I told them this was exactly how they should act if they are ever called for jury duty. Speak your mind on how you understand the case. When I was in law school, I was in JAG, and we did exactly the same mock trial exercises. After the trial, I took the students on a tour of the juvenile detention center and I think it was eye-opening for them to see that facility.”
This annual project benefits students in many ways, giving them real experience in their chosen career field with investigation, trial preparation and execution in a real courtroom, and touring detention centers. “I learned how to fill out all the paperwork for a crime report and that process of arrest reporting,” Ashley Weimer said.
“I learned the importance of correctly filling out paperwork, because we had some reports we had to go back and complete properly,” Peter Hale said.
“I found that I love working in a team, and the importance of supporting each other and being there for each other in the team,” Jacob Long said.