By Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMay 3, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (May 3, 2019) - A defendant, plaintiff, lawyer and jury members each take their place in the courtroom, chatting reservedly. But when the judge walks in, the conversations stop and they each rise-something they're not accustomed to doing for their teachers or coaches.
Sixteen seniors from Zama American Middle High School, all students in the school's Advanced Placement American Government and Politics class, were at the U.S. Army Japan courtroom on Camp Zama April 26 to participate in a mock trial as part of a "Law Day" celebration.
Capt. Jennifer Bromm, chief military justice for USARJ, said the event was meant to help the students become familiar with both the U.S. and military legal systems by having them see the inside of a courtroom and experience the trial process.
The students were tasked to come up with the outline for the case they would present in the trial. They decided to make it a hit-and-run case in which the defendant, professional wrestler and actor John Cena, was accused of striking the plaintiff, comedian and actor Kevin Hart, with his vehicle and then leaving the scene of the accident.
Given those details, Bromm and her team of legal professionals crafted a script for the students that took them through the entirety of a standard case-opening statements, questioning and cross-examining witnesses, presenting evidence and closing arguments.
Bromm said she and her team worked to make the trial as interesting and entertaining as possible for the students. Watching it unfold, she said she was pleasantly surprised that a few of the students even did their characters' voices.
"I thought they did really well," said Bromm. "They seemed like they were engaged and enjoying it."
Chloe Gartner, who role-played as a juror, said it was interesting getting to experience the responsibility of deciding a person's guilt or innocence.
"[The trial] was a good look at what it's going to be, being adults and having have to be part of a jury one day," said Chloe. "It helped me see what it would be like being in a courtroom situation."
William Takahashi, who played the role of a witness, gave testimony that supported the defendant's accounting of the event.
"It was cool [getting] to see how court trials work and being able to experience it," said William.
Taking part in a mock trial was a far more engaging and memorable experience than if he had just been sitting in a classroom and taking notes during a lecture, William said.
"Being a part of something [like this] is, I think, better than being told what's happening," said William.
The event concluded with an award ceremony for an essay contest in which the students participated with the theme, "Should All Speech Be Free?" Winning first place was Riki Fameli; second place was William Takahashi; and third place was Chloe Gartner.