Being overseen by a real honor of the court, members of the Phi Alpha Delta fraternity took on the roles of attorneys, jurors and witnesses for a mock trial in the Isabella County Courthouse on Thursday.
The courthouse, facilitating the event, was home to the second mock trial this year put on by the pre-law fraternity as members put their knowledge of the law to the test in a fictional murder trial before Isabella County Trial Court Judge William Ervin.
Eliza Wilton, Phi Alpha Delta’s professional enrichment committee chairwoman, said the trial is a valuable learning experience for students who are interested in pursuing a career as an attorney.
“To prepare and present a case to a jury and a real judge like this gives you a clear indication of what the real thing will be like,” Wilton said. “It gives them the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to go into this field.”
The fictional case presented at the trial involved the shooting of a teenager in a suburban neighborhood. The purpose of the trial was to determine whether the shooter was guilty of pre-mediated murder or a lesser offense.
Four members of Phi Alpha Delta volunteered to act as the attorneys. They built their cases and took turns questioning several witnesses and experts, including the defendant.
Shepherd senior Audrey Maney and Newport junior Zachary Diederichs served as the prosecutors for the trial. Maney said she felt they made their case well despite some anxiety in presenting the case.
“I definitely lost my thought a few times from being on the spot, but all the preparation we did ahead of time really helped,” Maney said.
The defense consisted of Taylor senior Stephanie White and Swartz Creek senior Brandon Swain. For Swain, the mock trial was his first time working on a case in a courtroom environment.
“This kind of thing is really helpful to all of us who are gearing up for law school,” Swain said. “I think we put on a really strong case for self-defense.”
The attorneys looked at precedents from similar cases to develop their strategy in the trial, Swain said.
White, who is studying criminal justice, has taken part in several previous mock trials.
“It was exciting, fun and stressful all at the same time,” she said. “There were things we could have fixed, but I’m confident that we succeeded today.”
The jury, made up of fraternity members, was charged with delivering the final ruling on the case. After adjourning to deliberate, they returned with a verdict. The defendant was found guilty of second-degree murder.
After the verdict, Ervin gave feedback to all of the participants on their performance.
Judge Ervin has presided over the mock trials the last several years and said this semester’s proceedings showed the students had prepared themselves well.
“The witnesses did an excellent job of knowing their material, what was and was not in their statements,” Ervin said. “The examinations and cross-examinations were also very good.”