On March 10, 2009, Ogden & Sullivan attorneys coached competing teams of eighth graders from Academy Prep in a Mock Criminal Trial held at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse in Tampa, Florida. The Honorable Charlene E. Honeywell of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit served as the presiding judge for the trial which involved criminal prosecution of a fictional store robbery. Academy Prep students served as the lawyers for both the prosecution as well as the defense, with each student playing a key role in the trial. The students prepared and conducted opening statements, direct and cross examinations of prosecution and defense witnesses and closing arguments. Ogden & Sullivan, P.A. attorneys served as fictional prosecution and defense witnesses based on a written fact scenario previously provided to the students. Additional students had the opportunity to present a Motion in Limine to Judge Honeywell who presided over the case just as if it were a real trial.
The Academy Prep students, after five weeks of hard work and practice with the Ogden & Sullivan, P.A. attorneys, experienced first-hand the excitement and challenges of trying a case. Conducting the trial in an actual courtroom and having witnesses sworn in by a bailiff made the experience very real and exciting for the students. The mock trial also included a volunteer jury panel comprised of Academy Prep faculty who heard all of the evidence and the opening and closing statements from the students before deliberating and returning their verdict in the case.
Our participating attorneys Jere Tolton
, Jay Spengler
, Melissa Daley
, Richard Maselli
, Dereck Capaz
, Reba Abraham
, Luis Viera
and Tim Sullivan
were impressed with how well the students responded to the challenges presented by the mock trial. In particular, the students quickly learned the importance of planning, organization and practice, which was reflected in their respective performances. After the verdict, Judge Honeywell and the volunteer jurors provided additional input and praise of the students' performances from their own unique perspectives. Judge Honeywell also answered questions from the students regarding various aspects of the judicial process.
The Mock Trial Program is part of an ongoing volunteer commitment by Ogden & Sullivan, P.A. to Academy Prep, a non-profit, fifth through eighth grade middle school which operates 11 hours a day, 6 days a week, nearly year round. To learn more about Academy Prep, you can visit their website at http://academyprep.org/tampa/