Mock trial teaches students about courts
Suspect 'convicted' of DUI, cleared of texting charge
May 22, 2014
Havre eighth-graders got first-hand experience Wednesday in Havre City Court of the legal results of drinking and driving.
The students participated in two mock trials, with eighth-graders themselves in the roles of judge, jury, prosecution and defense in the trials of Lucas Ames - a Havre police officer who came into court on his day off to serve as the defendant in the trials.
The jury in the first trial convicted Ames of drinking and driving, but acquitted him of illegally texting while driving.
Nicholas Tanner, son of Jason and Tiffany Tanner, presided as the judge on the first trial that started at 9 a.m.
Tanner sentenced Ames to the county DUI treatment court - warning him if he "messed up," he could be sent instead to the Hill County jail for six months and assessed a $2,000 fine.
He said the procedure gave him some perspective on drinking.
"It kind of put some reality into it," Tanner said after the mock trial. "I don't think anybody wants to do this in real life."
A grim real-life reminder was parked outside city hall - the demolished Montana Highway Patrol car in which Trooper Michael Haynes sustained fatal injuries in 2009 when a drunk driver hit the car head on.
Havre City Prosecutor Tamara Barkus said she has been organizing the mock trials for several years.
During the mock trials, Barkus explained the procedures to the students as the procedure progressed.
The Havre Middle School eighth-graders had about two weeks to prepare for the trials, with students selected at random from those applying for parts in the trial to serve in the different positions during the trials and receiving information about the charges and the investigation, as well as on the courtroom procedures.
Havre Police Officer Brian Cassidy was the investigating officer in the incident - the mock traffic stop - including videotaping Ames holding a cellphone while driving and being pulled over and arrested.
Cassidy said he has talked to students who participated in last year's mock trials, and it seems to have an impact, at least on some.
"Sometimes that little bit of outreach makes a difference, showing how dangerous it is, drinking and driving and texting and driving," he said.
Kendall Holden, son of Shawn and Christy Holden, was one of the jurors in the first trial. He said it was a very different field trip from what he is used to.
"It was exciting," he said.
It also was educational, Holden said, about how a court and a jury work, and more.
"(Drinking and driving) is very dangerous," he said.
Tanner said he appreciated the chance to learn about the courts and about DUIs.
"This was a great experience," he said. "I'm sure it was for everyone."