Sulphur Springs High School Law Enforcement and Forensic Science students this week applied the many skills and lessons they have learned in the program. Many students participated in a mock trial conducted by the students in the second floor courtroom of Hopkins County Courthouse.
Students were tasked with conducting a murder trial, with class members performing all court tasks except judge and bailiff. Each student acted in the role assigned, with two students pretending to be the defendants, a man and woman accused of being involved in an affair and conspiring to kill the man’s wife. Several students served as the legal team, some for the defendants and others as prosecutors. Others served as investigators and law enforcement personnel involved in the murder investigation, and one person was reported to be a witness to the gunshots fired at the residence. The attorneys traded turns questioning the various witnesses called to testify. Others students served as jurors.
The only roles the students did not fill were judge, as County Court At Law Judge Clay Harrison presided over the “mock” trial, and bailiff, as Butch Adams filled his role as courthouse security officer.
The student prosecutors claimed the man and woman conspired to kill the man’s wife, had holes in their alibis, made up stories to try to direct suspicion away from themselves and the fact that they did not contact authorities after the man’s wife was shot. that a blood splatter indicated he was close enough to have seen his mistress shoot his wife, then wrote in his wife’s journal, pretending she was the one who had a boyfriend.
The students defense attorneys argued that the man’s wife was supposed to be out of town at the time of her death, so their clients didn’t expect her to be home and thus couldn’t possibly have conspired to kill her that day.
The student defendants testified that they thought a fourth person, an intruder had entered the residence as the wife was not expected home and a weapon was fired in self defense. The students defense counselors claimed the officers’ police work was unreliable and that they had no evidence that the mistress or husband shot his wife; they were only guilty of wanting to be together and were caught together by the man’s wife.
Among the physical evidence given were window glass from inside the home and documents.
The jury was sent out into the hall to determined whether they believed based on the evidence presented in the limited time available the man and mistress were guilty of murder, while the attorneys, prosecutors , authorities and defendants and defense team, and courtroom full of student spectators waited in the courtroom.
The jury came back, finding the girlfriend guilty and the husband not guilty as he was only an accomplice.
Judge Harrison at that point explained the law of parties to students, that in Texas, being party to a crime such as murder, whether an accomplice or not, makes them guilty. He used the scenario of a bank robbery. He designated three students, one as a robber, another as an associate who went to work at a bank to get information to relay to the robber and a person who drove the car used to transport the robber and stolen funds. He asked which of the three would be guilty or robbery. He noted that all were guilty of involvement and therefore guilty. A sentencing hearing would then be utilized to determine whether one should be punished more harshly than another.
CTE law instructor Demetra Robinson said the mock trial is a highlight of the class for most of the students, something they work hard to put on and look forward to all year, sometimes multiple years until they completed the requisite classes to attend or be involved in the trial. Being able to conduct the mock trial in the former district courtroom at Hopkins County Courthouse made students even more excited about that portion of the class.