May 12 mock trial makes big impact on THS students

May 12 mock trial makes big impact on THS students
Dave Mast

The stage was set at Triway High School for a mock trial that featured what would take place in the courtroom following a vehicular homicide accident claiming the lives of two people. The accident was caused by a teen driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.


The mock trial at Triway High School that took place Friday, May 12 may have been make-believe, but the portrayal of a vehicular accident that took the lives of two people due to a young person driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol was real enough that the THS student body watched in silence as the events played out.

Cole Drown, a Triway junior, played the role of the driver of the vehicle who made a series of horrific choices. He would eventually be sitting next to public defense attorney Rod Baca in front of Wayne County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy Vansickle while being grilled by Wayne County prosecutor Angela Wypasek.

Prior to the mock trial, the school created a 10-minute video that went back in time to the teenage party that set the stage for the fatal crash. The party featured plenty of alcohol, marijuana and a series of poor decisions among several teens who decided to get into a vehicle and head elsewhere to continue the party.

THS student Khamaria Oliver played the role of the student who was killed in the accident, which also claimed the life of THS band director John Puster. Also in Drown’s vehicle was THS student Madelynn Bleven, who did not participate in the trial but was paralyzed in the fictitious story.

For his role in the accident, he was found guilty of delinquent vehicular homicide.

In passing down his judgment, Vansickle listened to the pleas of Baca on Drown’s behalf before delivering a devastating judgment.

“Two people lost their lives as a direct result of your conduct,” Vansickle said. “There are consequences to your actions, and those consequences are going to be imposed because the seriousness of this offense demands nothing less. You can never undo what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter how many nights you cry yourself to sleep. It doesn’t matter how many times you say you’re sorry. Those actions are permanent and irrevocable, and those families must live with the aftereffects. It was a foreseeable consequence of actions and decisions you made, and as a result two people have had their lives taken away and others have had their lives forever changed.”

Drown’s character was sentenced to four years in the department of youth services (prison) and a lifetime suspension of his driver’s license among other lesser indictments.

Stiff penalty for a good kid who made a bad decision? Perhaps, but as THS senior Brianna Rood’s character said in her statement, “John Puster will never get to see the light of day again, so why should Cole?”

“Most of these young people have never set foot in a courtroom before, which is a good thing,” Wypasek said. “But it’s critical for them to see firsthand what can take place when drugs and alcohol can destroy lives with one bad decision to get behind the wheel. It’s important that they realize the effects of these substances and that there are major consequences to those actions that can affect the entire community.”

Several adults spoke as witnesses at the trial including Wooster Ohio State trooper James Speicher, Khamaria’s mother played by Angie Giltner and Rood, who gave a passionate speech on behalf of Puster.

“I was fighting back real tears just thinking about this as I spoke,” Giltner said. “It’s so impactful to put yourself in the role of a parent going through this agony. It tore me up knowing that these were good kids who made awful decisions.”

For Drown, simply sitting in the hot seat facing serious charges was enough to make him feel the twinge of nervousness, despite knowing it was all staged.

“This is such a valuable lesson for all of us to experience,” Drown said. “We need to understand the consequences of the decisions we make and how those decisions can greatly impact others. Fake or not, being accused of something this horrible and knowing you’ve taken lives is hard to experience.”

During a Q-and-A period following the mock trial, the professionals on stage fielded questions from the students in the audience. They talked about the ramifications of these decisions, not only for the young people involved, but also for the parents who allowed the party to take place in their home.

“We consider these parents to be ‘cool parents’ because they allow this party, and they let kids stay over and control the keys, but we all know someone sneaks out. They go do something; that parent is responsible for the actions of those kids,” Baca said.

They also discussed the effects of both alcohol and marijuana and how both slow the reflexes and invite poor decisions into the lives of those who use them.

Vansickle laid it on the line when discussing the effects of marijuana. “I’ve dealt with a lot of chronic marijuana users. Don’t buy the lie that people tell you when they say marijuana isn’t harmful and is not addictive. You are being sold a lie. Don’t believe the media. Don’t believe television. Don’t believe what your friends tell you. You will turn into one of the dumbest people around if you are a chronic marijuana user, and it will affect your life in ways you don’t anticipate. If you use either, you’re setting yourself up to fail.”

Baca said marijuana will remain in a person’s body for close to one month and will register in administered tests long after usage.

“When you’re driving and you get pulled over, it’s still in your system, and it’s still a crime,” Baca said.

Vansickle said the hope is this mock trial will sink in and make an impact so none of these students will play the scenario out in court for real someday.

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