Mock trial encourages safe choices by students

May 2—WEST MIDDLESEX — After causing a car accident that killed one student and injured multiple others, senior "Johnny Smith" was found guilty Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter.

Smith, who was texting while driving and had "one or two beers" when he decided to drive home the morning after prom, shouted "It wasn't my fault!" as a bailiff led him from the courtroom.

Fortunately, Smith's ordeal was strictly for show and a lesson for his fellow students who will be attending West Middlesex's prom Friday.

The mock trial Wednesday morning at the West Middlesex Jr.-Sr. High School auditorium was a demonstration by the group Students Against Destructive Decisions, and no one involved was actually jailed, injured or killed during the demonstration.

"It only takes one mistake to ruin your life," Principal Tessa Simmons said to the students in the audience afterward.

This was the high school's first year hosting a mock trial, which encouraged students to make smart and safe decisions when celebrating prom Friday evening.

The trial was held over two days. Students portrayed people involved in the legal system, including the jury, defense attorney, prosecutor, witnesses and the judge.

School counselor and SADD advisor Miriah Olivia said the mock trial is one of three activities that school officials rotate annually for students in grades 10 through 12.

The other events include a mock car accident involving student actors and real first responders who recreate the immediate aftermath of an accident caused by distracted driving in the school parking lot.

In the third event, students are shown graduation day videos and given visual-impairment goggles, then tasked with navigating an obstacle course, Olivia said.

"We rotate the events each year so that students in grade 10 and above can experience all of them, and they each offer something different," Olivia said.

Portraying Johnny Smith was junior Ava Widmyer, with senior Kayden McKay portraying the judge.

Widmyer and McKay said the experience was an educational one for students unfamiliar with the court system, but also helped to emphasize the potential consequences of a car accident caused by distracted driving.

While the "accident" resulted in one student's death, Widmyer said the injured students faced lifelong consequences, with one left paralyzed.

McKay said an ordeal involving a crash and subsequent prosecution would be a traumatic experience for everyone involved, including the person responsible.

"The driver may have survived, but that person is going to have to live with what they did for the rest of their life," McKay said.

Widmyer said the best answer to avoid a distracted driving-related accident was a simple one.

"Just don't do it," Widmyer said.

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