On May 19, Shaker Junior High School seventh grade students celebrated Law Day by presenting a full-length mock criminal trial at the Albany County Courthouse. The case, The People of the State of California v. Evan Shem, involved an art student who allegedly stole a valuable painting from a gallery where he was interning with the intent to sell it. To conceal the crime, the student replaced the original painting with a replica he created. For the mock trial, seventh-graders from Houston Hall acted as the prosecution, while students from Norris Hall represented the defense, and students from Clay and Calhoun Halls served as the jury. Town of Colonie Senior Justice Peter G. Crummey presided over the case.
Under the direction of social studies teachers Chris Myer and Seth Harris, students spent several months preparing for the roles of prosecution and defense attorneys and witnesses for the unscripted trial. They wrote opening arguments as well as direct and cross examination, closing arguments, and jury voir dire (the process through which potential jurors are screened by either the judge or a lawyer to determine their fitness for jury service). Students also learned about criminal procedure, rules of evidence and objections. The seventh grade students used the same case and followed the same rules as the state of California high school mock trial competition. Jury members worked with Albany County Commissioner of Jurors John Diamond and experienced the same training as actual trial jurors.
The Shaker Junior High School Law Day program, organized by Mr. Harris, is currently in its 10th year. It began in 2007 with a panel discussion at the junior high and moved to the courthouse in 2009 for a mock trial, where it has taken place each year since. Mr. Harris, Judge Crummey and Commissioner Diamond have been partners in organizing this program since its inception.
Click here for photos of the event.