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Mock trials highlight murder cases

The FC civics classes are participating in mock trials to further their understanding of court processes. These classes recently visited the Fresno County Courthouse and can now use what they learned in trials of their own. Civics classes at FC have been doing mock trials for years in order to teach students first-hand what it is like to be in a courtroom.

Civics teacher Jordana Siebert began their first period mock trial on Nov. 13 and plans on concluding the trial Nov. 16. Siebert notes that her class is doing a murder trial, with students acting as the attorneys, the defendant and other positions.

“The defendant is pleading to have battered woman syndrome as the reason for killing her husband,” Siebert said. “She openly admitted to killing her husband, but the defense attorney is trying to prove that it was the only option this woman had. Katherine Bennett will be the defendant and Mckay Mohun will be defending her, with Nathan Bender as the prosecuting attorney. There are multiple witnesses ranging from her brother to a woman?s shelter manager to an expert on battered woman syndrome. It should be really fun.”

While she has made possible predictions, Siebert is unsure of what the jury will decide for the case this year.

“I really have no idea what to expect this year,” Siebert said. “After Monday it looks like it might go in favor of the defendant, saying that she does have battered woman syndrome. There’s always those people who say she’s just hiding behind this condition and she actually did murder her husband because she was sick of him. I actually don’t know on this one.”

Siebert thinks this mock trial is a good opportunity for her class to experience a trial first-hand.

“It really brings to life the courtroom instead of just doing a test on the courtroom,” Siebert said. “I have the students actually be in a courtroom and do it themselves.”

Junior Aaron Ward, a student in Siebert’s class, finds the trial to be both helpful in learning about courtrooms and entertaining to watch.

“I think it’s pretty interesting that we get to see how the judicial system works for ourselves by experiencing it first-hand,” Ward said. “This trial will help me understand how things work in court and help me learn more about due process. I was put on the jury but I wanted to be a judge so that I could say, ‘I am the law.'”

Matt Howard, ’13, enjoys being on the jury, because he gets to hear both sides of the story and learn more about the courtroom.

“It’s pretty interesting,” Howard said. “I’m on the jury and I like that I just get to listen to the different sides of the argument. I think it’s a good idea to teach students the purpose of having a jury and a trial. I like that we get to see what actually happens in a jury room and in court.”

Second period civics teacher Robert Foshee also chose a murder trial but one with a different background. This case takes place in a fraternity at a college and involves threats and hazing that often occur during rush. Students of Foshee received the information and evidence about the trial on Nov. 14 and will continue with the trial for the remainder of the week. Foshee notes that his students will also be taking on different characters and positions in the courtroom.

“The mock trial is put together to help students understand how the law system works,” Foshee said. “They’re going to be lawyers and witnesses and are going to try the case in front of a jury. There’s no right or wrong answer. Whichever side pleads their case better with the jury will probably get the support of the jury.”

Foshee thinks the mock trial is a good learning opportunity for students to learn about courtrooms for themselves. He thinks it provides them with a different way to learn instead of using traditional textbooks.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to go through the law process and learn terms without having to read them out of a book and hear lectures,” Foshee said. “They get to do it themselves and understand why the questions that are asked, are asked, what the rules of law are and what due process is involved. They can learn how due process works in real time rather than just reading about it in a book and memorizing some pages about it.”

Foshee has high expectations for this year’s trial. He sees the excitement in the kids and is excited to see what they come up with.

“I think it’s going to be great,” Foshee said. “The lawyers are excited and are doing a great job preparing for the case and the witnesses are going to do a good job presenting the case. It will be up to the jury to see how it goes.”

Senior Rachel Quiring, a student in Foshee’s civics class, is looking forward to learning more about the courtroom and getting to participate in a trial.

“I’m excited for the mock trial,” Quiring said. “I think it’s going to be fun and we’re going to learn a lot. You can learn how a court works from a textbook but I think it will be really fun to experience it for ourselves. I’m thinking about being the prosector because I kind of want to go against Stephan {Melendez}.”

For more features, read the Nov. 14 article, Teachers’ kids excel in DI sports.

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