Campers at the Henry County Sheriff's Office Youth Camp had a chance to participate in and learn how court trials work on their final day of camp Thursday.
The court simulation was a continuance of a mock car accident that took place Monday at Memorial Park, only this time, children learned about the legal ramifications of such a scenario.
At the trial, allegedly drunk driver Clark Howard, a fictitious character created for the event and played by New Castle Police Captain David Carnes, stood trial for one count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and causing death and three counts of operating while intoxicated and injuring others. Present at the hearing were the prosecutor, a defense attorney and a judge, just like there would be in a normal trial. Six children were chosen at random to sit on the jury and decide if Howard was innocent or guilty.
Henry County Deputy Prosecutor Christi Brock explained a few terms to the kids before the trial started so they could have a better understanding of what was going on.
"As a prosecutor, I represent the state and I protect all of your voices to make sure you all live happy lives. This also means that I protect everyone else to make sure you don't infringe on their happy lives," Brock said.
Real-life Henry County Prosecutor Joe Bergacs, who portrayed Howard's defense attorney, informed the jury that they needed to make sure, without shadow of a doubt, that they believed Howard was guilty of his crimes. This meant that if the children did not believe he had alcohol in his system and caused injury and death, they should not convict him.
As the trial was underfoot, the children heard both Brock and Bergacs as they questioned Henry County Sheriff's Sgt. Landon Dean, fictitious coroner and real-life Henry County Sheriff's Chaplain Bill Palmer and Henry County Sheriff's Deputy Mike Rossiter. Ultimately, it was Howard the children really paid attention to as he was the final speaker.
Monica Brumley, 12, who has attended sheriff's camp for the last four years, thought Howard's statement was fishy.
"When he was telling everyone his side of the story, he said that he swerved across the road to miss hitting a dog. We were all there on Monday and I don't remember seeing a dog," Brumley said.
Howard told everyone that he was diabetic and when he swerved to miss the dog in the road, he had a diabetic attack, which caused him to continue to swerve.
"That just did not make sense to me," Brumley said.
The trial ended with both the prosecutor and defense attorney giving their closing statements, trying to convince the six jurors that their side was correct. After a quick recess, the children came back with their decision that Howard was guilty. Fictional judge and real-life local attorney Tony Saunders decided Howard would receive the maximum 30 year sentence for his crimes.
"I don't have anything better to do any way," Howard said after he was sentenced, pounding his fists on the table.
The room erupted with laughter and Brumley said things like that are what make her want to keep coming back to camp each year.
"Every year we all always have a lot of fun," she said.