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Guilty or Not Guilty?
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
For two days, December 5 & 6, the F. Donald Myers Education Center all-purpose room was transformed into a courtroom for a mock trial concerning a case of armed robbery. Criminal Justice Studies students spend six weeks preparing for case, the majority of which they did independently, outside of school. Both morning and afternoon classes held their own trials. The idea was to demonstrate to students how the law works in a real-world situation.
“The mock trial has been part of our curriculum for years,” says Instructor David Foldi. “It is still one of the most popular hands on activities the students do. It is amazing to see the level of confidence it builds in the students from start to finish.”
There is a different case every year. Every student in the class has a role. After weeks of preparation, students participated in “discovery day,” where they presented evidence and got feedback from the experts, attorneys from Martin, Hardy and Mazotti. Then came trial day(s) where retired Judge David Mathis presided.
Julia Holbrook, a senior at Galway High School, was the lead attorney for the defense in the afternoon class. Holbrook said her family experience of dealing with siblings and winning arguments helped her in the role. Her dream job is to become a Drug Enforcement Agency officer. Working on the case will help in that pursuit. She says, “knowing the whole process all the way through is exciting.”
Getting praise on her closing arguments from a real-life judge is making her think of a career in law as an option for her future.
Guiliana Stefanacci, a senior at Saratoga Springs High School, was the lead for the prosecution team. She says she gained more soft skills from the experience.
“As a lawyer you get leadership, public speaking, and organizational skills. Teamwork is so important. If you don’t like your team nothing will get done,” said Stefanacci.
Ultimately, after all the evidence was presented, each class came to different verdicts. A ‘not guilty’ verdict was delivered in the morning class, and a ‘guilty’ verdict was delivered in afternoon class.
“The mock trial becomes so real, you can’t anticipate a verdict,” said Stefanacci. There are so many different factors that determine a win or a loss. All you can do as lawyers is present the evidence, how the jury perceives it is how they perceive it.”
“I think students learned their rights as citizens,” said Foldi, adding students learned to recognize facts before opinions. “They’ll use the experience in all fields of criminal justice.”
To see more photos of the trial, check the WSWHE BOCE Criminal Justice Studies Facebook page.
One of the defense teams conferring.
One of the prosecution teams.
Taking the oath.