EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 20, 2013

Students learn about court system in mock trial program

LAWRENCE — Dressed in a black suit and tie, Javier Diaz stood confidently in front of the jury as he made closing arguments proving the City of Lowell was not responsible for a teenager who fell into a manhole preventing him from playing sports.

Diaz , an eighth grader, will be a freshman in high school next year and maybe one day will get a law degree. He was the “attorney” representing the City of Lowell in a mock trial held at Lawrence District Court.

“It was the best thing because I had fun. I learned how to speak in public and how to treat people in court,” Diaz said.

Diaz and his classmates at the Arlington School and their counterparts at Wetherbee School took part in 10-week program learning how the court system works. The classes alternated between the two schools on Thursdays and included mock trials last month in the Fenton Judicial Center.

Retired Judge Kevin Herilhy and Attorney Michael Hogan taught students everything from the layout of the courtroom, courtroom etiquette, interviewing witnesses, and rehearsing opening and closing statements. In addition to Herlihy and Hogan, students heard from assistant district attorneys, lawyers and court officers.

Students were taught to stand up straight, have self-confidence, listen attentively so they can respond correctly and speak slow as not to stumble on their words.

Judge Mark Newman of the Juvenile Court Division heard the case argued by Javier Diaz for the Arlington School.

Students from the Wetherbee presented a mock civil case about a student who was illegally searched after being suspected of spraying graffiti on school property because he had streaks from markers on his hands. Associate Justice Jose A. Sanchez presided over that case.

In the jury box were police officers, local residents and retired teachers.

After the “not guilty” verdict, Sanchez praised students for their job well done in their roles as witnesses, lawyers, plaintiff.

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