Providence Hall students get first-hand experience in courtNov 08, 2021 02:41PM ● By Justin Adams
Ella Fraser and Maya Heesch, who led the prosecution, consult with one another during a mock trial. (Justin Adams/City Journals)
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
A few dozen Providence Hall students experienced a taste of the criminal justice system on Oct. 14, as they gathered in the Herriman City courtroom for a simulated criminal trial.
The event was the idea of Ron Rice, the school’s first-year resource officer who also teaches two criminal justice classes.
“I’m not really big into lecturing and that kind of thing, so I like to get the kids involved,” Rice said.
The mock trial dealt with the issue of human trafficking—a question of whether an immigrant woman was being held against her will in the defendant’s basement.
While based loosely on a real-life case, Rice made some changes to the scenario to make it more suitable and relatable for his students.
For weeks the students prepared for the case by studying police reports and other documents prepared by Rice. The class divided into two sides: prosecution and defense and began to build their cases.
“It was fun. I liked preparing for the case. I’m really fond of doing research for stuff, so doing this was really fun for me,” said Ella Fraser, a member of the prosecution team.
“It was so much fun,” echoed Elizabeth Brinkerhoff, a member of the defense. “We got to interview everyone, it was like an actual trial.”
For the actual mock trial, students volunteered to fulfill certain roles on the two sides, as well as on the jury. At first there was a little hesitancy among the students, according to Rice. Some of them didn’t love the prospect of so much public speaking in front of their peers. But Rice had the class do a few public speaking exercises in the lead up to the trial in order to help them get more comfortable.
For Brinkerhoff, the public speaking lesson was a valuable lesson that extends beyond the realm of a court case.
“I feel like you have to be confident with what you’re saying or it will never get across. You have to be passionate,” she said.
For Maya Heesch, a member of the prosecution, the mock trial, as well as the class as a whole has “cemented her desire to go into law enforcement.”
“The way [Mr. Rice] teaches the class is really hands-on. He’s brought in industry professionals to talk to us. He brought in people who work for a foundation trying to help with human trafficking cases. He’s given us so many resources to help us succeed,” she said.
That potential to impact a student’s future career path is one of Rice’s favorite parts of the job.
“You might have a kid who comes back one day and says, ‘Hey man, I’m a lawyer because of what you did.’”