Mock trial helps students understand impact of crime
Fairfield High School students in Andrew Hopper’s two sociology classes began the process of a mock trial Thursday.
Today, his first-hour and seventh-hour juries will deliver verdicts.
“It’s been very interesting to hear what the students in the jury think, as well as the other students in all the roles,” said Hooper.
“Students have had mixed reactions throughout the four days of trial. Jury members wanted more evidence presented, while witnesses and the prosecution and defense teams all started taking sides in the case even if it didn’t match with the side they represented,” said Hooper.
“I do a mock trial to get students actively involved in their own learning process. Part of my sociology class is to discuss the impact crime has on society and what changes crime can cause to society.
“Participating in a mock trial I believe really helps students begin to understand those impacts,” said Hooper.
“At the end of the trial, we’ll have a class discussion about the different features of society that can play a role not only in crime but also in various aspects of our society, such as education and government. We’ll discuss such things as race, personalities, age, occupation and other things, and the impact each of those can have on society.”
Students could choose roles, and everyone participated. The afternoon sociology class of 27 students had six witnesses; three prosecution attorneys; five defense attorneys; and 13 students pulled jury duty.
The scenario was about a misfit student “Alex Day,” role-played by Coren Hucke, a recently new student at a high school. A school security guard had shot him on school grounds after a football game.
The security guard was on trial charged with attempted murder and improper use of a firearm.
Hooper instructed the jury to be seated at the back of the classroom after handing in an assignment to create a timeline of events in the case. Jurors were to take notes throughout the four-day trial.
Hopper donned a borrowed black choir robe and swore in the first witness using a classroom textbook. The first witness was Alex, the boy who’d been shot.
A prosecutor asked the witness how it felt to be shot?
“It hurt,” said Alex.
Why did he cut the lock on the stadium gate?
“It was a joke. I wanted to show my friends my Camaro and told them I’d bring it to them. So I drove it into the stadium,” Alex answered.
A defense attorney took a turn questioning the shooting victim.
Is it true you laughed at the security guard? Is it true you’ve enjoyed harassing the security guard previously? You seem to have been a member of a gang? How is it you get into gang parties if you’re not a member? You say you’re not a gang member yet you’ve worn gang apparel.
Alex said he used to live in New York. The jacket — black, with the Jets sports team logo — was a gift from his dad. His parents split up and eventually his mom moved here because she thought he had the wrong type of friends in New York.
He admitted to drinking prior to the football game.
The defense asked about the beer bottles found inside the stadium near his car.
“They were already there, and I moved them,” said Alex.
When the defense lawyer said he thought the beer bottles in fact were the victim’s, the prosecution raised an objection of speculation, which the judge upheld.
Another high school student, JoJo Chavez, portrayed by Joanna Funkhouser, had been in the stadium with Alex when he was shot, She said they had stayed in the stadium after the football game, just talking and listening to music. Asked how she knew Alex, she said they met at a gang party.
Security guard Sydney Taylor, role-played by Fallyn Garrison, took the stand in her own defense. She said she had kept an eye on Alex since he moved to the school. She believed he was involved with a gang.
“It is never discovered whether or not any of the kids had a gun that night,” said Hooper explaining the back-story. “The security guard claimed self-defense while Alex claimed malice.”
The defense and prosecution teams had to come up with a set of questions before the trial began, and the students could add more questions as the trial developed.
“I helped both sides with a few questions to start, such as what happened the night of the football game, and what the characters do for a living,” said Hooper. “Other than that, there wasn’t much prompting from me.”
Witnesses on the stand had to respond to questions according to the testimony, “but they also could add in a personality for their character as well,” said Hooper.
He encouraged — and gave extra credit — for students dressing in character for the trial. For instance, some male attorneys wore suits and ties, while females dressed in skirts and tops. Alex and JoJo wore hoodies.
Other seventh-hour students and their roles in the mock trial included: Eden Bell, Kenneth Boughner and Krystal Weirup as prosecuting attorneys; Delanie Birlson, Jessica Lamb, Ashley Manning, Spencer Peterman and Max Spalla as defense attorneys; Kara Greiner, a detective who worked with Sydney Taylor; Brandon Taglauer, a sergeant who was first officer on the scene after the shooting; and Taalia Larson, high school principal where the shooting happened.