Bucyrus seniors learn inner workings of court during Mock Trial

Bucyrus seniors learn inner workings of court during Mock Trial
Posted on 04/08/2015

Many students will only ever see the inside of a courtroom in pictures or on television, which is both good and bad. Good because it means they are staying on the right side of the law, and bad because students need to understand the legal system.

However, Bucyrus High School students had the opportunity to learn not only about the legal system, but also what goes in to trying a case. Government teacher Mr. Jason Nickler had his students bring the courtroom to life right in the classroom during the annual mock trial project.

"All three of my Government classes did the same mock trial case this year; 'The People v. Andrew Madison'," Nickler said. "The accused, 'Andrew', was brought to trial on charges of assault and battery of a police officer and disorderly conduct."

At the beginning of the two and a half week preparation window, each class was instructed that there was to be no sharing of information or discussion of their cases among their senior classmates. Students were divided into a prosecution team and defense Team, which each consisted of 4-5 students, and a jury comprised of 5-10 students.

Senior Jesse Heinle served as a Juror during this year's Mock Trial, and felt it was a good experience for everyone because they learned the ins and outs of a trial.

"Serving as a juror was a good experience because I learned how to deliberate and not allow my biases to affect the outcome of the court case," Heinle said. "The toughest part of the entire process was staying unbiased until the deliberation period where I was able to study the facts and determine guilt or innocence."

Jackie Gabriel, another BHS senior, served on the defense team during the mock trial. She found the most difficult part of the experience preparing for the case because it was something she hadn't done before.

"We were responsible for reading through the case and learning how everything was handled," Gabriel said. "We had to setup questions we wanted to ask and write the answers we thought they would give us. We had to think on the spot and that was difficult."

Every prosecution and defense team had to prepare an opening statement, direct examination, cross- examination, and closing statement. The jury members had to create grading rubrics/check sheets on what they should be looking for during the trial.

"The whole goal of the 2-3 week long instructional unit is for the students to have a basic understanding of the rights guaranteed to all Americans if they have to deal with the legal system in any capacity," Nickler said. "I think that the mock trial is a great way to end the unit and give the students an alternate assessment of their understanding of the material besides a test."

On the days of the trials, students were required to dress up and look presentable for the courtroom. Nickler rearranged the classroom by making a jury box for students and putting desks together for prosecution and defense tables.

"I learned a lot about what happens in the process of trying a court case," Gabriel said. "You have to know what you’re talking about and what you're doing because Mr. Nickler took it very serious and didn't want us to wing it."

"The mock trial also allows the students to be active in their education," Nickler said. "Doing a project like this allows students to put concepts into action and better retain the important information."

As for the outcome of Gabriel’s defense team during the mock trial, she would say her client was happy. "Our client was found not guilty, so I would say we did our job pretty well!"