Dawood Farahi, president of Kean University, built a courtroom in the Green Lane Academic Building [GLAB] for students to utilize in an academic setting. The contemporary courtroom contains: a judge’s bench, witness box, jury box, defendant and prosecutor benches, and seats for spectators. On Wednesday, September 24, 2014, that courtroom was put to use as a mock trial took place.
Thomas Lateano, a professor in the criminal justice department, has experience as a prosecutor and integrated that into the mock trial as he took the role of prosecutor. Other professional participants included Joan Richardson, acting defense attorney and everyday attorney, and James Heimlich, the presiding judge over the case, retired judge of Union County, and professor at Kean Ocean.
The mock bail hearing was of a student who is president of his fraternity, had a 3.8 grade point average [GPA], and was being charged with hazing and first degree murder. Trials are not a matter of a guilty vs. innocence ruling, but a guilty vs. not-guilty verdict. Heimlich began the mock trial with, “It isn’t that the defense has to prove innocence, the prosecutor just has to create a strong case.”
Every day, numerous people go through the process that is court, and are either convicted of a crime or are deemed not-guilty. Heimlich incorporated his expertise to teach the students the finer aspects of court proceedings. “The arraignment process is for them [defendant] to understand what they’re being charged with,” Heimlich stated. The defendant was aware of his charges and the bail hearing continued on to the defendant and prosecutor stating their arguments of what the requirements of bail should be. The verdict of the mock trial was the defendant had a bail set at $50,000 cash, which was determined by the arguments presented during the trial and the defendant having no prior criminal record.
One might ask why mock trials take place, besides them being practice runs for those wishing to enter the criminal justice career field. Lateano declared, “[mock trials] give dimension to the class.” By making fake situations real, students are able to partake in the courtroom exercise that had the simultaneous setting of professional and learning.
To avoid situations that will end with an individual behind bars, say no if someone propositions an activity that appears to be reckless. “If it seems dumb, it most likely is dumb. Don’t do it,” Heimlich advised. At the end of the mock trial session, Heimlich offered words of wisdom, “We [professors] want you to have successful careers...What you learn in college is to be people of integrity…and it takes courage to tell the truth…”
For more information on majoring in criminal justice or courses offered by the major, please visit http://www.kean.edu/academics/college-business-and-public-management/school-criminal-justice-and-public-administration-2.