By Brandon BeachMay 7, 2015
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - The verdict is in; Casey Jones is a free man.
The soft-spoken custodian from Loganville, Illinois, was charged with two counts of home invasion and aggravated battery following a May 2014 incident at the home of Kelly Morgan, Jones' ex-girlfriend.
As the five-person jury returned to the courtroom following 20 minutes of deliberations and announced its "not guilty" decision, Jones let out a sigh of relief and turned to high-five the members of his defense team - Thomas Dore, Matthew Jackson, Gemma Lovett and Donald Ratcliff - all students from Kaiserslautern High School.
The four-hour mock trial, held May 4 in the Warren J. Argue Courtroom on Kleber Kaserne, had all the legal components of an actual case -- a plaintiff and defendant, attorneys, witnesses, court reporters, a bailiff -- just with high school students playing the parts.
Mock Trial 2015 was the culminating event for students taking "Street Law," a semester-long course taught by KHS teacher Mark Fairchild.
"It's an introduction to the legal system and the basic concepts of jurisprudence," said Fairchild. "I tell (students) before the class they will get a chance to practice law in front of real legal professionals."
Col. David H. Robertson, an Army chief circuit court judge with the Kaiserslautern Legal Services Center, presided over the trial, in which prosecution and defense teams provided opening statements, examined witnesses, presented evidence and offered closing arguments. Sitting in as jurors were legal professionals from the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, who also worked with the students for about a month formulating their legal strategies.
"Lawyers have a lot of preparation to do, a lot of on-the-spot thinking because you never know what the opposing side is going to throw at you," said Ayress Grinage, a KHS senior and member of the prosecution side. "Cross examination is really where you have to think on your feet."
Grinage said she is off to the University of Florida to study biology in the fall but confessed she hasn't ruled out a future in law. Other students have also shown an interest in the legal profession since the semester started nearly four months ago.
"It's really a great opportunity and a lot of us are interested in law," said Justin Hebert, a KHS senior who was named "Best Attorney" at the trial. "I want to major in criminal justice once I graduate (high school), and I figure this is a great chance to see if this is really what I want to do."
The mock trial coincides every year with "Law Day," a special day recognized by the American Bar Association. This year's theme centered on the Magna Carta, a document written 800 years ago in an attempt to make peace between King John of England and a group of rebel barons. The document is noteworthy in the U.S. for its influence on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
This year's mock trial, the fourth of its kind between the school and the legal office, was organized by Fairchild and Conchita Dunn, 21st TSC lead court reporter.
"I try to make it as realistic as possible," said Dunn. "If you came in here and this was a court marshal, it would look almost identical."
And with that, Judge Robertson struck down his gavel: Case Closed.