Mock trial challenges law academy students

Published 3:17 pm Thursday, March 3, 2016

Students in Pelham High School’s law academy participate in a mock murder trail. (Contributed)

Students in Pelham High School’s law academy participate in a mock murder trail. (Contributed)

By JESSA PEASE / Staff Writer

PELHAM—A mock murder trial was recently developing at Pelham High School in the law academy classroom. This trial gave Law I students an opportunity to apply the skills they’ve learned during the criminal justice unit, according to teacher Karen Varner.

The students were randomly divided into prosecuting and defending teams and given evidence about a fake murder case. Varner said the students held a 20-minute debate, and the teams had to determine whether or not to enter a plea.

“I think it’s a different kind of class. It’s very much student led,” Varner said. “I just facilitate the student thinking, so it’s not very much teacher-doing.”

Junior Keeton Armstrong and sophomores Lily Cone and Addison Fuller are all enrolled in Law I, which focuses on the basics of critical thinking, communication skills and backing up beliefs with evidence.

Armstrong and Fuller both have family members who work as attorneys, which initially sparked their interest in the law field. Cone said she is an argumentative person, enjoys history and English and wants to be a part of the judicial system.

“I have a great interest in politics, and if you look at great politicians they have law degrees,” Cone said. “I’ve always just enjoyed the law and learning how it works and wanting to be in the courtroom.”

All three students said the law academy has solidified their interest in a law career, and Armstrong is currently completing an internship at Simpson, Mcmahan, Glick and Burford law firm.

“I definitely still want to go into the career,” Armstrong said. “The academies have definitely opened up a lot of opportunities, like the internship I am working with now. It’s very advantageous for anyone that is interested in going into law.”

At his internship, Armstrong is currently working on an article for “Alabama Lawyer” about biases called “Why lawyers evaluate cases differently.” He said he enjoys the philosophical nature of it.

The mock trail, according to all three students, was realistic and gave them an accurate perspective on what a courtroom is like. Cone said 95 percent of cases never go to trial, so it was interesting seeing how the pre-trial works.

“We got the case file and as time went on, we got more evidence and more files to help us,” Fuller added. “As a group and as a team we looked at all the evidence and decided how we were going to plea…it was really understanding what goes on before a trial.”

The class is currently wrapping up the criminal cases unit and discussing how the trail went for both sides. She added that while some students find they aren’t as passionate for law as they thought, the law academy is something student would benefit from for any college degree.