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NYS Versus Mean Mike
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Criminal justice culminates in the courtroom. Thus, there is no better way for the criminal justice students to learn the ins and outs of the system than a mock trial.
For two days, students in Dave Foldi’s Criminal Justice Systems class staged the mock murder trial, “New York State Versus Mike Mean,” a simulation and role-playing experience based upon hypothetical facts concerning a murder trial.
Students have been preparing for five weeks to pose as defense and prosecution attorneys, witnesses, investigators, court officers and the defendant – Mr. Mean, accused of killing his girlfriend Candy Cane.
The students were guided throughout by the firm hand of retired judge and practicing attorney Lawrence LaBelle. The Saratoga Springs expert on criminal law acted as judge, a role he has played in the mock trial for the past decade.
“I do it for several reasons,” said Judge LaBelle after the trial. “I enjoy it. The students do try so hard; and I think they learn a lot. I want to try to keep this going. I also want to keep myself going too.”
This is the 12th year of participating in the mock trial for the judge who is now in his 80s. He kept the students on track, helping them recover when they fumbled or strayed from standard court procedure.
“The benefits of the mock trial are many,” said teacher Mr. Foldi. “In a world where shows like ‘CSI’ and ‘Law and Order’ are so popular, the mock trial gives them a better idea on what it’s really like in the courtroom, how the criminal justice system works – from the investigation to the sentencing.”
He said it also drew out the individual talents of students. The mock trial honed collective skills, especially those on the legal teams. He found it also sharpened the students’ abilities to speak and articulate thoughts in public. “Fear of public speaking is America’s biggest phobia,” added Mr. Foldi. “The mock trial forces students out of their shells. Having to speak in front of an audience and persuade people helps these students in every aspect of their lives.”
Judge LaBelle agreed.
“I see these kids acting so nervous during their opening statements on the first day,” said Judge LaBelle. “By the second day, when the make their closing arguments, they have gained a lot of confidence. It’s wonderful to see.”
Mr. Foldi said that for the last 17 years, Criminal Justice students have been participating in a mock trial. “It’s the same trial in the morning and afternoon classes, but the verdict is never the same,” said Mr. Foldi. Students also evaluate each other on their performance. The jury is selected based on a survey given to all students at the F. Donald Myers Education Center.
Alex Fink portrayed a defense attorney in the morning class. When asked why she chose the role, she said, “Because I’m really good at it. I’ve had a lot of experience doing this. I wrote the closing statement. I think the defense is going to win.”