Youth violence and homicide filled the Harrison County Courthouse on Tuesday. Fortunately, it wasn't for real: Students from Liberty and Robert C. Byrd High schools were participating in a mock trial.
For the past two months, members of the Harrison County Bar Association have worked with the law/political science students of John Hudkins and Gary Poling. They helped the youths prepare for a mock jury trial murder case.
The "People vs. Kelmar" is geared toward students in grades 10-12. Youth violence, crime at school, guns, the effects of violence and factors influencing youth violence are all discussed during the case.
"We chose this case because we thought a murder would interest the students," said attorney Greg Schillace.
The same case was presented in three separate courtrooms. Circuit Judges John Marks, Thomas Bedell and Jim Matish presided over the proceedings.
As the trial began in his courtroom, Marks reminded the students the jury is the judge of the facts while the judge is the judge of the law.
Student "prosecutors" and "defense attorneys" called several witnesses. The teams constantly talked with their coaches and objections echoed through the courtroom.
After hours of examinations, jurors heard closing arguments.
Judge Marks then explained to the jurors the duties that face them. He then sent them to deliberations.
After awhile, the jurors returned to read the verdicts: Two findings of voluntary manslaughter and one of second-degree murder.
"I listened a lot and argued a lot," said juror Liann Gottschling of Robert C. Byrd High. "I don't want to be a lawyer, though."
"I might want to go in to law," said juror Tara Martin of Liberty. "Some parts of it that is, not all of it."
The judges commended the students, then answered a few questions.
The Liberty high school attorneys were: Maggie Morgan, Ammon Gladwell, Sam Cox, Miranda Starkey, Stan Heflin and Lydia Davis. The Robert C. Byrd high school attorneys were: David Romano, D.J. Casto, Duncan King, Autumn Long, Dallene Culler and Angela Pasternak.
The Harrison County Bar Association members participating were: Tom Steele, Pete Conley, Greg Morgan, Mike Kozakewich, David Romano, Frank Simmerman, Jim Riley, Tim Miley, Michael Romano, James Wilson, Dan Cooper and Jack Kaull.
The event was co-sponsored by the Harrison County Bar Association, Harrison County Rotary, Harrison County Board of Education and the Harrison County courts.
Staff writer Tina Canon can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.