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February 23, 2014

MOCKING ENCOURAGED: Judge Dan Moore takes legal educational program to area high schools

CHARLESTOWN — Judge Dan Moore brought swift justice Thursday afternoon.

But it wasn’t from the Clark Circuit Court No. 1 judge’s normal perch on the bench. Rather, it was an educational endeavor — part of Moore’s Riding the Circuit Program — which he says helps young people understand their roles in the justice system. A group of Charlestown High School seniors served at prosecutors, defense attorneys and prospective jurors during a mock jury selection held in the school’s auditorium.

“When you sit as a juror, you are justice,” Moore told the group of nearly 60 students.

During the program, Moore was assisted by Clark County Chief Public Defender Jeff Stonebraker, Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Jill Peterson and Elizabeth Osborn, an education coordinator for the Indiana Supreme Court.

Each of students was given a specific role and acted out that character to better understand how prosecutors and defense attorneys filter through a large jury pool and select a set number to sit as jurors and alternates.

Students Will Copas, 18, Charlestown, and Dylan Rohl, 17, Sellersburg, were assigned to act as prosecutors during the program, and questioned their fellow students playing prospective jurors while attempting to determine if they would be good candidates for a fabricated jury trial of a young woman accused of drunken driving.

Taking advice from Moore, Stonebraker and Peterson, the student attorneys tried to create a jury most beneficial to their interests for upcoming trial.

“It is more about jury reduction, than jury selection,” Stonebraker told the students, explaining that the defense’s top jury candidates likely will be rejected by the prosecution, and vice versa.

Students also learned why some members of a jury pool would technically be exempt from serving as a juror because of age and residency.

“It kind of opened my eyes a lot more to jury duty, as me being a kid, and the only thing in media I have seen is people not liking jury duty. It doesn’t seem as bad as people portray it to be,” Rohl said. “It seems, actually, like a great experience being involved in the court system.”

Copas said through the messages shared during the program, he better understands how serving on a jury benefits society. He said they enjoyed having the Clark County legal professionals coming to their school and offering an alternative to typical classroom learning.

“It is better than just sitting in a classroom ... you are more hands on, and you get to learn more than you get to learn from your teacher because your teacher is not a judge, she is not a prosecutor or a defense attorney,” Copas said. “It gives you a better understanding to have the judge there.”

Rohl also said he liked having the opportunity to interact with the professionals during the educational program.

“Whenever you get in here and see people who have been there, they have done that, you understand it better. You get more into the situations, and they give you all the details you need to know everything you would do if you were in their shoes,” Rohl said. “I like having these kinds of activities, to actually sit there and get told what to do and learn how to do from doing it myself.”

CHS teacher Nicole Morrison said all the students involved in the program were from government and economics classes. She said having Moore, Peterson, Stonebraker and Osborn at the school for the Riding the Circuit Program was a great supplement to their traditional learning.

“It is beneficial because it teaches these children what it means to be a responsible citizen,” Morrison said of the program. “And how it is important to be a part of your community and to be an active citizen. It is very helpful.”

Earlier in the day, Moore, Stonebraker, Osborn and Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Harmeyer held the same program at Jeffersonville High School.

Moore has said the Riding the Circuit Program is designed to pull back the curtain on the judicial process, which is often perceived as mysterious for community members

“I believe judges have got to get out of that courthouse,” Moore said of his outreach efforts.

He said the program has been well received among young people, and that he found the JHS and CHS students to be “impressive with the maturity of their questions.”

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