Nearly 25 years after O.J. Simpson was found not guilty for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman, students in Mark Freeman’s government class at Sabinal High School revisited this era in history by holding a mock trial that rendered a guilty verdict.
The mock trial was an assignment designed to give the students an in-depth look at the legal system, Freeman said, and was aided by 38th Judicial District attorney Mark Haby and assistant district attorney Christina Busbee as well as Uvalde County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Ernie Moore.
“They learned the prosecutor’s job, the role of the defense and the jury,” Freeman said of his students, adding they also learned about the prosecution’s standard of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Students volunteered to take lead positions in the trial and pick assistants.
Student Braeden Soto played the role of prosecutor, who during the actual trial was Marcia Clark. Bryson Ray was the defense attorney representing the defendant, a position that was held by Johnny Cochran during the O.J. Simpson trial.
Alfredo Arteaga played the jury foreman, and Hailey Hernandez served in the role of standout witness similar to Denise Brown’s role in the Simpson trial.
Lorenzo De La Peña portrayed the defendant.
Prior to holding the trial, the students watched the five-part documentary “O.J.: Made in America,” giving them insight and background information on the historical trial.
Uvalde County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Ernie Moore presided over the mock trial, giving it an official feel.
“When he came in with his robe on, and they announced all-rise, the students stood right up,” Freeman said. “We even had each witness go through the swearing-in process.”
Adding another layer of real-life expertise to the trial was the guest attendance of 38th Judicial District attorney Mark Haby and assistant district attorney Christina Busbee.
Freeman said the prosecutors coached the students on the finer aspects of holding court, including the proper way to object to each other’s claims. This allowed the students to learn how to navigate the court system.
The main part of the defense revolved around the famous black glove.
Students purported that since the defendant had lacerations on his hand, the glove should also have cuts in the fabric.
After deliberating, foreman Arteaga passed a written note to the judge, indicating a guilty verdict.
The entire trial lasted approximately three hours. Throughout the event, several classes came in to observe, as did district superintendent Richard Grill.
This was the first time Freeman had put together this type of project. Grill has since asked Freeman to start a mock-trial team at Sabinal High School, which would compete in statewide competitions.