Portraying defendant Beck Martin, Ryan Seation threw his hands up in jubilation. He was innocent.
The verdict was part of a mock trial hosted at Eastern View High School April 16 by former Culpeper Commonwealth Attorney Gary Close for juniors and seniors in his law class he teaches at the high school.
The case was based on a mock trial competition called State v. Martin, created by the Oregon State Bar.
It recreates a fictional high school, Driftwood City High School, and a defendant - Martin, accused of murdering his classmate Anne Marcus in a school cheating scandal. Marcus, an avid rock climber, was found dead at the base of a rock wall near the beach and Martin was the last person seen with her.
The defense, led by senior Zach Brown and Julia Hall, argued that Martin was innocent and that evidence entered in at the end of the first day of trial - that Martin had confessed while being transported to jail - was inadmissible.
That piece of evidence was a wrinkle thrown in by Close, and Brown said it caused them to put in extra work that helped them win the case.
“I did some work last night and I did some work at school getting all the facts straight and getting all the actual legal stuff correct and finding real court cases that occured and having to take what they determined and put it into my own case,” Brown said.
Brown said the exercise, which was viewed by a large group of students in the school’s forum, was hard work but extremely interesting.
“It just goes to show that there has to be valuable evidence to show that someone is actually guilty and it just shows our court system and how it works,” Brown said. “That was the best part about the whole thing.”
Seation maintained that key witness Cody Ward was the actual murderer, even though Close said there is no right or wrong answer.
“During class when we were working on this we all discussed it and determined what questions we should ask and it came out to be not guilty, we did a good job,” Seation said.
Close, who served as judge, said it was evident how much work both the prosecution and defense put into the project.
“I think they did excellent,” Close said. “What you take into account is the strength of the argument, and that was created by the work they did.”
Lily Galvin, who served on the prosecution with Jensen Armstrong, said she was disappointed they didn’t get a guilty verdict but said the mock trial was a valuable lesson.
“I think there were some other points we should have nailed a little harder, but at the end of the day the jury does what the jury wants,” Galvin said. “It was a little nerve-wracking, maybe not because of just Judge Close but because there was a crowd here. I think everyone overall did a really good job.”