Story written by Josh Rosenson. Reprinted courtesy of Foster's Daily Democrat
Kneeling in front Atty. Barbara Bradshaw (played the Defense council) ; (standing from left to right ) Laura Brevitz, Esquire (played NHSP Laura Lab Analyst) ; Honorable Susan W. Ashley (played Wilma Witness) ; Daniel Donovan, Esq . (played the Prosecutor) ; Diane Caron, Clerk (Played Courtroom Monitor) ; Honorable Daniel M. Cappiello (played himself Presiding Justice) ; Court Assistant Patty Chesser (Played Debra Defendant) ; and Court Assistant Francine Dion (Played Vickie Victim) Court Security was provided by Security Officer John Cook and Richard Bell.
ROCHESTER - Participants of the Citizen's Academy put on by the Farmington Police Department were treated to a mock trial in District Court Tuesday night, with an actual judge and attorneys.
The Citizen's Academy is held every few years by Farmington police. Sgt. Jay Drury says it's a way to educate the public on the "behind the scenes" process of the judicial system.
"They have been to the (Strafford County) jail, they will be going to the Police Academy for graduation," Drury said.
The academy, free to part in, meets once a week for 10 weeks, and has been running since Feb. 5. About 20 people were in court Tuesday night for the trial.
Judge Daniel Cappiello presided over the mock trial. Clerks of Court Patty Chesser and Francine Dion played the roles of "Deborah Defendant" and "Victoria Victim," respectively. Court Security Officers John Cook and Richard Bell played themselves. Judge Susan Ashley portrayed "Wilma Witness," while Deputy Sheriff Dan Donovan prosecuted the case, and defense attorney Barbara Bradshaw, well, she defended "Deborah Defendant."
For realism, the defendant was dressed in an orange jumpsuit, belted and manacled.
There was testimony from the victim, the witness, real-life Farmington Officer Reginald Crone, and "Laura Labanalyst." Cross examinations were held, objections were heard, and a ruling was issued. Crone and Labanalyst described the collection of evidence, the lifting of latent fingerprints, and the analyzing process. All the aspects of an actual trial were played out for the audience.
Not guilty was the verdict.
The defendant was charged with a Class A misdemeanor of simple assault for allegedly striking the victim in the back of the head with a plastic soda bottle after an argument. Testimonies did not match up, and the state did not prove all aspects of the case, Cappiello explained to the audience.
Rochester District Court Security Officer Richard Bell and Court Clerk Patty Chesser who played "Deborah Defendant" during the mock trial.
Cappiello also called for a vote from the audience, with the vast majority raising their hands for a not-guilty verdict, while only a few thought the defendant was guilty.
James Johnston, 67, of Rochester said it was the first trial he has ever seen.
"The acting was excellent," Johnston said. "It was very interesting," he said of weighing each side's arguments.
Novella Dionne, of Farmington was also impressed with the trial, and she too, had never witnessed one. Dionne declined to give her age, saying only that she was "retired."
"That sounds like it really takes a lot of time to prove something that simple," Dionne said.
Throughout the trial there was laughter as the audience ranged from small children to senior citizens. Afterward, Cappiello told the audience it was very much like a real trial except for the laughter, though there is an occasional snicker.