From AAPSNews Service
Thirty Tappan Middle School students in grades six through eight experienced a taste of a real-life courtroom action during college-level mock trials at the Washtenaw County courthouse last month.
The students are members of the Tappan Law Club, formed this fall as a result of student requests for more law-related activities. It was organized with their input under the guidance of Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Timothy Connors, University of Michigan Law School Assistant Dean of Students David Baum and Tappan Middle School teacher Wendy Raymond.
The event took place on Dec. 12 under the supervision of Connors and Raymond. Students served as witnesses and jurors in a mock lawsuit related to a head injury received in a car and motorcycle accident. Three local public defenders – Delphia Simpson, Laura Dudley and Elaine Spiliopoulose – served as judges, and law students from Wayne State University served as lawyers. Simpson’s Washtenaw Community College students served as jurors with police cadets and the Tappan students.
The mock trials were part of course work required of WSU law students who are in Connors’ classes. The same case scenario was conducted simultaneously in three separate courtrooms and each trial resulted in a different verdict.
Outside of school and on their own time, students Sena Adjei, an eight-grader, and Jacob Johnson and Emily Uhlmann, both seventh-graders, carefully studied depositions for their roles as witnesses in the cases, and were convincing and well-prepared when they testified, club organizers said.
The other 27 students served as jurors and took their jobs seriously, contributing to discussion during deliberation. The middle school student jurors sat in the jury box with college students and listened intently to three hours of testimony from various witnesses. They were active participants in reaching verdicts during the final hour.
Connors said he was pleased and impressed by the intense level of engagement demonstrated by the middle school students, and has invited them to return to the court house for mock trials with a fresh batch of WSU law students in the spring.
Some 50-60 students have attended the Tappan Law Club when it meets each Thursday. During it’s inaugural year, the club has welcomed a number of guest speakers including Washtenaw County Sheriff Department homicide detectives John Scafasci and Tom Sinks; University of Michigan law school students; local attorneys including law education advocates Greg Dodd, Lori Buiteweg and Julie Beck; and George Brieloff of the Washtenaw County Youth Center Juvenile Detention Program, among others.
Information was submitted by Wendy Raymond, a teacher at Tappan Middle School.