Indiana Court of Appeals conducts hearing at Frankton High School

Feb. 10—FRANKTON — The gymnasium at Frankton High School became a courtroom Friday.

There, Frankton High School students were given an opportunity to hear an appeal in a murder case.

The "Appeals on Wheels" program brings judges of the Indiana Court of Appeals and attorneys representing both sides of a case together to appear before local students and residents.

The Frankton High School students heard an appeal filed by Timothy Hall, convicted in the 2020 murder of Manuel Mendez. A ruling will be issued in the future.

After the case was heard, the three judges answered questions from the students.

"We're excited to be here," Ann Fuchs with the Indiana Court of Appeals said. "This is a real case."

The chief judge was Rudy Pyle, who before his appointment to the Indiana Court of Appeals was a judge in Madison County.

"It's absolutely important," Pyle said of bringing the court to local communities. "It's our way of showing the people of Indiana what we actually get to do during oral arguments.

"It gives them the opportunity to ask questions of us and the nature of our work," he added. "They can see how we interact with each other in making decisions. It's a great educational tool."

Pyle said a variety of organizations, mostly schools, ask the court to come to their communities.

"They happen several times a month throughout Indiana," he said.

Frankton High School has a mock trial club, which is common, Pyle said.

Pyle told the students he was a student at Anderson University and had an internship with the Madison County Prosecutor's office.

"I was fascinated by the trial process," he said. "That's when I decided I wanted to be a judge."

Justice Dana Kenworthy said she worked as a deputy prosecutor in Grant County for 10 years, handling many cases dealing with children.

"I was more reluctant," she said of becoming a judge. "I saw the judge handling those cases was retiring and I was encouraged to run."

Student Delaney Wherman is a junior and a member of the Mock Trial Club.

"It was a new club and I've always been interested in the criminal justice program, watching all the television shows," she said.

Wherman said she thought it would be interesting to be a member of the club.

"I thought I would try it our and see what I liked about it," she said.

Next week the club is having a trial and she will be a witness.

Joslyn Karnes-Hatfield, a junior, will also be a witness during the mock trial.

"In the beginning I was hesitant about it," she said of joining the club. "It's giving me an opportunity to get out there a little bit more."

Karnes-Hatfield said she would consider becoming an attorney.

"It was informative, it was fun," she said of the hearing.

Principal Brett Sanders said school officials were excited about the Appeals on Wheels coming to Frankton.

"This year we formed a Mock Trial Club," he said. "It's going to be cool for the students to see democracy in action.

"Students get to see real justice, real lawyers and a real court discussion," Sanders added.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.