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The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

Mock trial teaches American Government class real world connections

Putting your friends on trial isn’t the first thing you’d think of happening in a classroom. Yet that is exactly what the seniors had to do when participating in the mock trial for their American Government class. 

Government teacher Dan Krajicek said the reasoning behind the project is to give the students a better idea of how our legal system and government works, along with getting an overall better understanding of the Constitution.

Senior Maycee Hays stands up to question one of the witnesses. Hays was a defense attorney during the Mock Trial along with fellow senior Kayleen Pettinger. (Jade Lewis)

Krajicek used previous experience to make sure this year’s trial went as smoothly as possible.

“I looked online on how it should go and then I took some of the suggestions we had from students last year and kind of incorporated them in,” Krajicek said. 

To complete the assignment, students were assigned different roles that varied from drug dealers to cops to prosecutors to defense attorneys. 

Seniors Haley Kube and Maura Tichota were assigned the role of being the prosecutors.

“I was in charge of trying to convict the criminals as guilty or innocent. We really worked with the cops trying to develop evidence for a lawful case,” Kube said. 

One of the cops Kube worked with was senior Bella Tederman, and together they gathered evidence for the prosecution to win over the jury.

“So we had to fill out where we wanted to search and why and then had to get it signed. We searched through lockers, searched teacher rooms for illicit substances like pixie sticks or smarties,” Tederman said. 

As cops, Tederman and fellow seniors Derek Wacker and Grace Jones had to follow specific rules, as any rules broken could be used against them later in the trial, just like in real life. 

“Honestly, the biggest struggle was keeping the other cops in line because people liked to mess with Wacker, so it’s easy to get him riled up,” Tederman said. “People were really trying so they could have a defense against the cops and say that we were doing things illegally.” 

Science teacher Leslie Heise hides her face while getting questioned on the stand. Heise was one of several teachers to serve as a witness during the trial. (Jade Lewis)

Kube and Tederman needed to convince the jury to find a guilty verdict while seniors Maycee Hays and Kayleen Pettinger had the roles of defending the accused. 

“I was defending the criminals and trying to create doubt in the cops’ work and just trying to show that they didn’t have enough evidence that the criminals were guilty,” Hays said.

Defending the others wasn’t easy work. Hays and Pettinger met multiple times over the week during the mock trial.

“Me and Kayleen sat down, usually about two to three periods a day for about a week, and we put together everything we knew. We spent a lot of time coming up with what the cops did wrong or what the prosecution forgot to do that would influence how the jury and the judge felt,” Hays said. 

One of the students Hays and Pettinger were working to defend was the “kingpin,” senior Jesse Kult.

“I was the kingpin. So I distributed the drugs to the dealers and had to come early to school so I didn’t get caught,” Kult said. 

Kult worked with other students assigned to be dealers, like senior Max Peterson, and they all sold their “drugs” (pixie stix and smarties) while trying to make sure none of them got caught. 

“I couldn’t sell drugs in the classrooms, and I obviously couldn’t sell drugs in front of the cops. But then I also had outfits picked out to where I could hide the drugs,” Peterson said.

Seniors Jovani Flores, Max Peterson, Jesse Kult, Maycee Hays and Kayleen Pettinger celebrate after Kult was ruled not guilty. Along with Kult, Flores was also found not guilty. (Jade Lewis)

After the trial the jury found three of the five drug dealers guilty, including Peterson, while Kult was not convicted. 

“Maura and I got three out of the five drug dealers, and that was big because we thought we would get less than half of them,” Kube said. 

Even though he was “convicted” in the trial, Peterson and his fellow seniors had a very fun and enjoyable experience. 

“The trial was really fun, and I think every class should get the chance to do it,” Peterson said. 

While the students had fun with the assignment, Krajicek was pleased with how much learning the students got in the process. 

“It seemed the kids really enjoyed it. It’s just a fun way to get in a lot of the standards that they were required to get,” Krajicek said. “They were really involved and didn’t realize how much they were learning as it was going on.”

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About the Contributors
Halle Arlt, Freshman writer
Halle is a freshman and in her first year of journalism.  She enjoys taking sports pictures for journalism.  Outside journalism, Halle is involved in cheer and wrestling student manager.
Jade Lewis, Junior writer
Jade Lewis is a junior and is in her second year of journalism.  She enjoys writing stories and taking photos. Outside journalism, Jade is involved in NHS,  basketball, and lifting at Saunders County Medical Center.
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