Mock trial team wraps up first court case
CAMP HUMPHREYS -- An innocuous sign stealing leads to a charge for triple manslaughter and it was up to five U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys teens to argue the legitimacy of the charges.
This was the scenario of the mock legal trial presented June 7 at the garrison's courtroom.
Capt. Trent Kubasiak, chief of the Administrative Law Division at the Humphreys Consolidated Legal Center, developed the program on a volunteer basis because of his passion for it during high school. He had hoped to find an existing club here to get involved with and help kids to understand his profession, but discovered that one does not exist.
"So, I built it from the ground up," he said.
Kubasiak set an orientation date, which the Youth Center assisted in recruiting teens to sign up for. Ten teens, ages 16--19, tried out for the team April 1.
After weeks of guidance and training, the five teens who progressed through the entire process conducted a mock trial based on a California fact scenario that the American Bar Association (ABA) distributes for high school mock trials.
The trial itself consisted of opening statements, direct examination, cross-examination and closing arguments from both the prosecution and defense. It was up to each side to provide the best argument as to whether Chris Donovan, a Santa Elenora University student, was guilty of manslaughter. According to the ABA fact sheet, Donovan was accused of stealing a Wrong-Way Do Not Enter sign from an Interstate 110 exit ramp in California. The missing sign resulted in a newlywed couple traveling the wrong way up the exit ramp, colliding with a gas truck, igniting a massive explosion and killing the newlywed couple and the gas truck driver.
The ultimate goal of the mock trial wasn't to determine guilt or innocence, but to identify the strengths and weaknesses that each individual and team, prosecution or defense, possessed in arguing the points of the case.
And argue the teens did.
"I saw a night and day difference in the teens' capabilities from start to finish," Kubasiak said. "What I really like is that you're not pumping them full of a bunch of useless legal knowledge they're not going to use. You're teaching them to get up in front of people, convey an idea in simple, easy-to understand language. The kids became much better communicators with much better abilities to tell you what they were thinking and tell you why they were right."
Jared Barrick, Youth Services director, is incredibly pleased with the progress he saw teens at the Center make and for the effort Kubasiak put forth.
"This has been one in a series of instances, in which a talented and resourceful person on the garrison has taken the initiative to allow youth to learn and grow. It's amazing what can happen when dedicated, selfless individuals devote themselves and their time to helping the youth of our community grow into more well-rounded people."
Kubasiak and the Youth Center plan to establish another mock trial team in the near future.