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Trenton Students Experience Live Courtroom Drama from Auditorium Seats

Students witnessed actual courtroom proceedings play out in the Trenton High School auditorium.

"Being involved with drugs ends in two ways: incarceration and death," a defendant said as he address hundreds of students from the stage of the auditorium. "I'm just blessed mine ended in incarceration."

This defendant, who will remain anonymous in this article, stood before 33rd District Court Judge Michael McNally, teachers, administrators and students at Trenton High School Friday, and asked everyone to not, "hold his past hostage."

After being involved in drugs when he was 26-years-old the defendant spent over five years in jail and was most recently arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana according to McNally.

Ten years later, the defendant, now 36, asked McNally, seated at a table atop of a wooden riser in the center of the stage, to sentence him based on the man he is now and not the boy he was then.

For the past ten years, McNally has held actual courtroom proceedings before a captive audience of high school students at the request of Trenton High School Principal Michael Doyle.

Defendants who attend Court to School do so on a voluntary basis, and receive a credit toward any jail, community service or court work for attending according to McNally.

"We offer the defendants and opportunity to be here...If someone's willing to be here it's a lot more intimidating, and I'm going to give them credit for doing it," McNally said.

Doyle said he always plans the event the day before prom to serve as a reminder of the consequences of breaking laws like underage drinking and drinking and driving.

"This makes the 10th year Judge McNally has come to Trenton High School and we are batting 1,000 (percent)," Doyle said. "We've never had a drinking incident at prom, and tomorrow is our prom."

McNally presided over three cases including a case involving a 20-year-old women who was sentenced for drinking and driving, which resulted in a car accident that left a passenger of the vehicle she hit with a broken arm.

"At the very least, it gives them (students) exposure to the criminal justice system," McNally said. "And, hopefully it will help them reflect and think about the effects and consequences of illegal behavior and hopefully it will deter some of them from committing any kind of criminal act."

The one-hour event concluded with McNally fielding questions from students. Students asked questions pertaining to the three cases they'd just witnessed and questions about probation and becoming a judge.

Nate Stemen (Editor) May 04, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Do you think Dr. Doyle is right? Does this event have an affect on students' behavior going into prom weekend?
Jeffrey S. May 04, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I feel you raise a great and interesting question from what is stated in the article. Principle Doyle is quoted as "We've never had a drinking incident at prom..." which may be true. At prom. However, you (Trenton Patch) asks does it affect behavior going into prom weekend? I was one of the students who got a Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) after the prom of 2002 and we didn't drink at prom, but we drank after. As someone who now works with colleges and higher education institutions, where is the line of responsibility and accountability drawn for people? If there are still incidents after prom, their behavior hasn't changed and it doesn't work. I would be interested in incidents involving THS students after prom. If the gauge of whether or not this program is successful is only at prom, then yes behavior may be better. The scope has to be larger though.

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