Is he innocent or guilty? Nobody at this trial knows, including the defendant!
Parker High School’s sophomore World History class has been preparing for a while for the mock trial that took place at La Paz County Superior Court Thursday in front of a real judge. Some of the students spent time going over witness statements and other evidence ahead of the event, preparing their cases and getting ready to present evidence to an eight-member mock jury, their classmates. The rest of the class was in the gallery, watching it unfold.
“This was tied into the Law Day event put on by the American Bar Association,” said Kyle Carlson, the class teacher. “It was a mock trial put on entirely by the students without any script or pre-determined verdict.”
The case was a hit-and-run incident involving the defendant’s Miranda rights, to mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark Miranda ruling which protects a citizen’s right to remain silent and their right to an attorney. Witness statements in the case referred to a partial license plate, the possible glow of a cellphone in the car and some other evidence. The defendant was charged under ARS-28-661: “Accidents involving death or physical injuries; failure to stop; classification; driver license revocation; restricted privilege to drive; alcohol or other drug screening.”
The student prosecution team worked with La Paz County Attorney Tony Rogers, while the defense team met with law attorney John Churchill. The students’ real-life equivalents gave them direction in court procedure and strategy.
“We got a lot of support from Megan Spielman at the Superior Court in setting this all up,” Carlson added. “And we were very thankful for Mr Burke’s help in presiding over the case.”
Judge Michael Burke, the retired former judge of the Superior Court, was back on the bench for the case. Current Judge Samuel Vederman said it was good to see Burke back in court.
“It was a great event,” Vederman said. “It was an honor to have Judge Burke serve as judge for the trial.”
Attorneys for the state were Skylar Metz, Papau Reyes and Wyatt Thomas while attorneys for the prosecution were Diovianne Miller, Jenny Friel and Stevi Davis. The court clerk was Darrius Fernandez and the jury was made up of Francine Harper, Leightyn Edwards, Isiah Esquerra, Korrin Garcia, Maritza Miller, Phillip Deras, Colton Page and Hayden Sale. The witnesses in the case were Cameron Hansen (as a police officer), Manuel Preciado (as a passenger in the car) and Seth Lee (as a witness bystander).
The jury’s verdict was not known at this time of writing.