Close to 90 students from the Rainbow District School Board and the Sudbury Catholic District School Board will participate in the mock trials at the Sudbury Court House.
“Students from Sudbury area secondary schools have fully embraced the Mock Trial program,” said Justice Patricia C. Hennessy. “They are taking advantage of the wonderful opportunity of working with local lawyers to experience the inner workings of the criminal justice system. Their enthusiasm and hard work is inspiring.
“Effective criminal trials are the result of hours of preparation on the part of lawyers and witnesses. These students, working under the direction of their law teachers and with additional coaching from practising lawyers from the Sudbury Bar, are going through the same process of preparation that lawyers experience daily.”
The secondary schools participating in the 2013 competition are Confederation Secondary School, Espanola High School, Lasalle Secondary School, Lockerby Composite School, Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School, Marymount Academy, St. Charles College and Sudbury Secondary School.
At this year’s mock trial, students will prosecute and defend a drug case where the accused person is charged with possession and trafficking in controlled substances — cocaine and marijuana. One student on each team will play the role of the accused, an 18-year-old grocery store clerk who claims the charge is a setup.
Other students will play the role of the investigating police officer, a police informant with a shady past, and the accused’s older sibling, a squash-playing high school teacher. The students who play the role of lawyers will examine and cross examine these witnesses. They will also make opening and closing statements.
After the preliminary round, the two highest-ranked teams will participate in the championship trial, seeking to take home the coveted Hennessy Cup. The cup is named after Justice Patricia C. Hennessy, who has been the Mock Trial Project Leader since its inception 12 years ago.
A number of additional awards will be presented — Best Advocate Defence, Best Advocate Crown, Best Witness and the Civility Award for professionalism.
Rainbow District School Board Chair, Doreen Dewar, said the competition owes a large part of its success to the local volunteer lawyer-coaches who provide hundreds of hours of time to this project, year after year.
“Through the Mock Trial Competition, members of the Sudbury and Manitoulin Bar and Crown Attorney’s office make an enormous contribution to student learning by bringing the classroom into the courtroom,” she said.
“Many students have been inspired to pursue studies in the legal field after secondary school,” she said: “We commend the legal community for being exceptional role models of professionalism, community service and student success.”
For their part, local lawyers find it to be a rewarding experience as well.
Danielle Vincent, a criminal lawyer at Michel & Vincent Law, is coaching the team from Marymount Academy. It has been an inspiring and refreshing experience.
“It’s nice to see young people so excited and interested in the law. These smart young women have been working really hard and they can’t wait to show everyone what they can do.”
The Mock Trial Competition is well established within the Grade 12 Law curriculum. In addition to meeting curriculum expectations, mock trials develop other skills in students, including public speaking, teamwork, presentation, preparation and critical thinking skills.
“Students who participate in the Mock Trial project will experience the courts in a unique way. They will be the actors, not the spectators,” said Hennessy. “In order to act out each of their roles, they will have to grasp the fundamental principles of the role of the courts in a democratic society. We believe that all Canadians should appreciate the key role that courts and the entire criminal justice system play in society.
“There is no better way to do this than to have the students experience a trial. We hope that these students will acquire the skills that all citizens require to understand the criminal justice system and have the ability to critically analyze news reports of trials and appreciate the consequences of them.”
She adds: “It is our hope that these students will be engaged citizens, whose experience of the court process will give them an understanding of important events in the life of the community. We also know that this experience creates confident advocates, whether as students, citizens or professionals.”
The Mock Trial Competition will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Courtroom A, with an opening address by area judges. Observers must arrive on time in order to gain entry for this portion of the proceedings.
Trials will continue throughout the day and culminate with the championship trial from 1:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. The awards ceremony will begin at 3:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.
Local winners will go on to the Northeastern Mock Trial Competition to be held in early March. Regional winners will compete in the provincewide finals in Toronto in April.