Classroom to courtroom: Mock trial helps students understand justice system



News-Herald Staff Writer

CADIZ – A battle over free speech played out on April 16 as an ongoing program brought a local classroom into the courtroom.

About 13 Harrison Central High School students in Devvon Dettra’s practical law class tested their legal mettle in a mock trial before county Common Pleas Juvenile-Probate Judge Matthew Puskarich using the First Amendment. The common pleas courtroom was the backdrop of the simulated civil case depicting the ramifications of a fictional 17-year-old student’s comments about a teacher on her Web blog.

The two-hour “trial” involved main players Jacquelyn Knight as Leslie, Cierra Brown and Michael Wilson as counsel for the plaintiff, Jake Kasarda and Darin Heavilin as counsel for the defendant and Samantha Moore as teacher G. Lee. The class is comprised of juniors and seniors.

The court heard testimony from both sides, including Leslie, Lee and their fellow witnesses, but the presentation did not end with a ruling. Instead, students are graded on preparation, presentation, professionalism and knowledge.

Dettra, who has taught the class for two years, considered possibly having students compete in the future.

“It’s an idea for the future. Other local schools do this,” he said. “They practice for 12 weeks and the first half of the year is studying the law and amendments. They get a basic understanding of the law in general.”

Puskarich worked with the students each Tuesday for two months to prepare for the event, which is provided through the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education. He was pleased with the outcome and said it gave pupils a different look about the law.

The class intends to re-enact the presentation for 135 eighth-grade Persuasive Speech students at Harrison Central Middle School, but the event has not yet been scheduled. Puskarich said it would be pared down to a 40-minute segment.


  1. Matthew Puskarich’s article in Harrison News Herald for June 19.
    Matt I’ve given you more credit the past few years than the comments you made in the paper. (an increase in crime and drug use more likely among young people”
    If young adults are going to use drugs and do crime they do it not because of the school they go to, they do it because they want to. There are too many young adults in our communtities that does NOT do drugs due to that is their choice and not to do with the school situation.

    Another comment you made. “new businesses and families will see the problem in a community with a school and be discouraged from coming to the county.”
    I don’t see any new businesses that would even want to come to our area nor families (working families and not welfare) that is wanting to move here. The only businesses that comes would be those that get a tax break at Industrial Park. We are thankful we still have W.C.Cardinal.
    How long did BayForm and the Bolt factory last here?
    When is Harrison County going to get a chain grocery store? The one in Cadiz is pathetic and way over priced. Plus, not the cleanest. The majority of people goes to St. Clairsville or Wintersville for groceries. Even with the cost of gas being higher we still save money on the groceries we buy, with a larger selection to choose from, by going out of county to buy.

    Your comment: “children graduating are not likely to remain in the area.”
    This has been going on forever in the county, I’d like to see the percentage of students who went onto college after high school that actually came back to the county and get a job in the area they went to school and trained for. Let’s do a % for the last 15 years. Even the past Superindent of our schools (Drexler), his daughters never came back to Harrison County after they were out of college.

    Your comment, “that you knew of some families that are considering moving out.”
    Probably because they are moving closer to their work, plus have more places to shop, more doctor’s in the larger areas, with more sufficianted medical facilites. We all know that for some tests, surgeries that some patients, have to go to other counties for this.

    We do not have Consolidation Coal Company, Cravat Coal Company, Y & O Coal Company, etc., etc in our county any longer. We lost Scio Pottery many years ago.
    And these craft shops appearing everywhere just aren’t generating enough money to be paying higher taxes. Just how many craft shops do we need? Especially for those that are not into crafts.

    Our children that are in school now, once they are out of high school and go off to college, they aren’t wanting to come back to Harrison County. So who does that leave here? A lot of welfare people, people that is raising their children on welfare, and sorry to say, but some of those children will go on welfare theirselves.
    Let’s look ahead 10 to 20 years from now. It will not be any better than than it is now.
    Yes, I’ve heard people say if the tax levy for the schools pass, they are just going to up and leave this county and let their property go into foreclosure. If that happens, who is going to have the money to purchase these foreclosured properties? Yes, those that has many rentals all over and rent to welfare. So we are back to square one again.

  2. Know this is not under the article Matthew has in the June 19th HNH, if and when it does appear online, I will copy and paste this under it.


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