Stu­dents get first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of ju­di­cial sys­tem

Moose Jaw - - News -

Af­ter the jury read their ver­dict, there was plenty of de­bate in­side the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench about the nu­ances of the case.

De­spite their be­ing a guilty ver­dict, no one was go­ing to jail. Rather, Cen­tral Col­le­giate’s Law 30 class had just taken part in their an­nual mock jury trial and did so with some in­ter­est­ing and com­pelling le­gal ar­gu­ments. “It’s been a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for these kids. There’s a lot of them who have ac­tu­ally said af­ter this that they want to pur­sue a ca­reer in law,” said Cen­tral’s Cal Carter, who teaches the class.

This year’s mock jury trial was held in the court and Jus­tice Darin Chow presided with Se­nior Crown Pros­e­cu­tor Rob Parker lead­ing the pros­e­cu­tion and David Chow and Tim Hansen from Chow McLeod lead­ing the de­fence. There were four stu­dent lawyers on each side who ei­ther made ar­gu­ments or ques­tioned wit­nesses. Stu­dents also shad­owed the sher­iff and ju­di­cial of­fi­cer Carol Meier and served as the wit­nesses who took the stand.

The ac­cused was a Cen­tral stu­dent, as were all 12 ju­rors and their two al­ter­nates.

“I am re­ally proud of them. They’ve worked hard -- on both sides. There were some that I was im­pressed with how they stepped up. They were ner­vous, of course, and that sort of thing, but I was re­ally proud of them. They did well,” Carter said.

“We had com­ments from Judge Chow and from Carol (Meier) say­ing that the kids had re­ally im­proved. They seem to be get­ting bet­ter as we go along.” In his clos­ing re­marks, Chow com­pli­mented the stu­dents on the work they had put in to the ex­er­cise.

Carter said he re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated the lo­cal le­gal com­mu­nity tak­ing time out of their sched­ules to take part in the mock trial, to work with the stu­dents and also come in and speak to the class at var­i­ous points.

“We’ve had the crown, both Mr. Parker and Mr. (Brian) Hen­drick­son and Tim McLeod,” Carter said. “We’ve also had law stu­dents come in and talk to the class. We’ve had a lot of good class in­volve­ment at the school level and they’ve been re­ally sup­port­ive of do­ing this pro­gram.” This is the fourth year Carter’s class has done the mock jury trial and the third time they’ve been able to hold it in the court. Last year saw the Cen­tral law class squar­ing off against the Vanier law class which added an­other di­men­sion to the pro­ceed­ings.

The mock tri­als bring a lot of dif­fer­ent skill sets to bear. The stu­dents need to use team­work to re­search and form ra­tio­nal ar­gu­ments while de­vel­op­ing skills like pub­lic speak­ing, in­ter­view­ing and ex­tract­ing in­for­ma­tion on the stand.

“We’ve had lit­tle ones in class where they’ve gone up against each other and have had to part­ner and team up with dif­fer­ent stu­dents,” Carter said.

The class and the mock trial help teach stu­dents the law, but they also help de­mys­tify the le­gal process and show a more re­al­is­tic de­pic­tion of the le­gal sys­tem than the stu­dents may be used to see­ing on tele­vi­sion or in the movies.

“I start off in my very first class telling them that you think this is go­ing to be the Tom Cruise ‘You can’t han­dle the truth!’ you’re go­ing to be sadly dis­ap­pointed,” Carter said. “There are a lot of peo­ple who are in law, who are lawyers, who don’t ac­tu­ally see a court room. There’s all dif­fer­ent av­enues and as­pects of it. We try to take out the Hol­ly­wood glitz and glam of it.

“I take them to docket court, which can be bor­ing, so they see how that works. We will usu­ally go on a Mon­day when there has been maybe more ar­rests.”

Un­like Amer­i­can pro­ce­dural dra­mas on TV and in movies where much time and ef­fort may be put into pro­fil­ing po­ten­tial ju­rors dur­ing the “voir dire” process, jury se­lec­tion is quite sim­ple in Canada. Both the crown and de­fence had the chance to say “con­tent” or “chal­lenge” and that was it. If a prospec­tive ju­ror was chal­lenged, they were dis­missed.

Jus­tice Chow noted that if too many prospec­tive ju­rors are dis­missed and they don’t have enough peo­ple to form a jury, the sher­iff is tasked with go­ing out onto the street and pulling peo­ple into the court to serve.

That be­ing said, jury tri­als are fairly rare at the Queen’s bench level and Jus­tice Chow noted that while the per­cep­tion is that jury tri­als are prefer­able to the ac­cused, he hasn’t al­ways found that to be the case.

Un­like in a real trial, the jury in the mock trial was asked to dis­cuss the rea­sons for their de­ci­sion with the le­gal teams, which led to even more de­bate about the case. The case was part of the cur­ricu­lum and was com­plex and nu­anced. The “ac­cused” -- se­nior Ethan John­son -was charged with unau­tho­rized pos­ses­sion of firearm and point­ing a firearm.

The back story was that the ac­cused was throw­ing a party when his neigh­bour asked him to turn down the mu­sic. Guns were drawn by other party-go­ers, the lights went out and shots were fired. The vic­tim said the ac­cused pointed a gun at him, while the ac­cused al­leged that he had a gun given to him and he dropped it as soon as he re­al­ized what it was. There was a gun found in the apart­ment, un­der a couch, that had not been fired, wasn’t loaded and didn’t have the ac­cused’s fin­ger­prints on it.

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