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Archive for Sunday, April 22, 1990

MOCK TRIALS GIVE KU LAW STUDENTS CHANCE TO TEST COURTROOM SKILLS

April 22, 1990

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By a unanimous vote of the jury, John Diamond was convicted of manslaughter Saturday in connection with the slaying of his estranged girlfriend, Trudi Doyle, who died from a gunshot wound.

Diamond was a hypothetical defendant standing trial for murder this weekend in a mock criminal trial at the Douglas County Law Enforcement Center.

In fact, the hypothetical Diamond was scheduled to be on trial for the same crime several times Saturday and today. When his case was tried in other courtrooms, he also was acquitted and found guilty of first- and second-degree murder.

More than 70 second- and third-year Kansas University law students participated in the mock trials, in which the same evidence and set of facts was presented to a jury.

About half the students were participating in mock civil trials, again using an identical set of facts.

ALFRED AINSWORTH, the prosecutor in one of the Diamond trials which ended in the manslaughter conviction, said he was pleased with the outcome.

"I think that second-degree murder was the most we'd get, and we got the next best thing," he said.

"I'm not at all disappointed," said his partner Stephanie Quincy.

The hypothetical trials mark the culmination of a KU trial advocacy law class.

In the mock trials, teams consisting of two law students prosecute or defend Diamond, a hypothetical person who has been accused of committing murder, or argue the two sides of a civil suit in which a wrongful death claim is made.

Other students and Lawrence residents play the parts of witnesses, jury members and observers in the trials, each of which takes about four hours to complete.

THE TRIALS account for half of the students' class grade. The other half comes from workshops in which parts of a trial, such as opening or closing arguments, are practiced, said Laurene Rose, a KU law professor who has been directing the class for the last 10 years.

"This is where it all comes together," he said.

Rose said that a model case is used in both the criminal and civil mock trials, which are held near the end of each semester. The mock cases were created from bits and pieces of real cases.

Using identical case files, students acting as attorneys in each trial ply their skills to argue their sides of the case. How a trial turns out depends on how well a student-attorney presents his case.

"No particular verdict dominates in these cases. They are designed so that any verdict can come out of it. It's up to the lawyers to convince the jury one way or the other," Rose said.

"The good thing about this case file is that it illustrates the effectiveness of the lawyer," he said.

IN THE CRIMINAL case, John Diamond, a police officer, is accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend, Trudi Doyle, who works as a waitress in a local restaurant.

On Saturday, Ainsworth and Quincy had the burden of proving that Diamond had indeed killed Doyle.

Their counterparts, Gavin Fritton and Stacie Kennon, tried to prove that the woman's death was an accident and that the man was innocent.

Each side made opening arguments, called witnesses to the stand, and presented closing arguments. A three-woman jury deliberated and handed down a decision to end the trial.

Andy Ramirez, a local attorney, acted as judge in that trial, as well as several others in which Diamond was the defendant.

"I've had everything from not guilty to first-degree murder," Ramirez said of the trials he's presided over. "There's not a right or a wrong verdict in this."

RAMIREZ occasionally ruled on objections raised by the student-laywers during the trials. After the trials, he also told the students which of their arguments worked best.

Ramirez is one of nine area attorneys and judges who assist Rose by overseeing the trial proceedings and scoring the students on their performance.

"This class is part of the law school's commitment toward providing learning through experience," Rose said.

"Some of the students find out they want to be courtroom lawyers and some of them find out that they don't want to be courtroom lawyers after this," he said.

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