Mock court activity with prosecutors, attorneys held for 700 students at Va. high school
STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. (ABC7) —
Court was in session in Stafford County, Virginia on Friday, but Circuit Court Judge Michael Levy traded his courtroom for the auditorium at North Stafford High School.
"The commonwealth may begin with its presentation of evidence," Levy said.
Real-life prosecutors and defense attorneys teamed up with the Stafford County Sheriff's Office for a mock court in front of 700 students.
"So they can understand that their decisions they make today can affect them tomorrow," said Deputy Steven Epple, who is the school’s resource officer and helped organize the event. “A lot of them, fortunately, have not been in the court system, but they understand some of those things they’re doing now have significant impacts for them where they can end up in a court system for making some poor decisions.”
Stafford County started the mock court event in the middle schools about three years ago, but this was the first time in the high school. The trials are more complex, but the cases are real.
"If we could please bring in the jury," Levy said.
Students served as jurors and defendants and heard cases some teenagers may have encountered before, which included sexting, assault and prescription drug abuse.
"These are some of the things we're seeing in the juvenile and domestic relations district court and somewhat in the circuit court," Levy said.
“These are some of the common issues that the students in the high schools across the country face every day,” Epple said.
Substitute teacher, Mary DeWulf, also read a victim impact statement in the final case regarding felony murder and use of a controlled substance. Those were the same words she read in court after her son Brandon died from an overdose in 2009.
"I want everyone to know that watching your child come out in a body bag is something no parent should ever have to go through," DeWulf said. “Even to this day there hasn’t been a day that goes by that I don’t shed a tear and think of him. I know I will never get over losing my son, I can only try to get through it.”
It was a powerful and emotional message that will hopefully help students make the right decisions in life.
"That sure as heck scared me, like I know I'm not going to do that to my life and I’m not going to put myself in danger," said Ryan Childress, who played a defendant.