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Press Release

Middle Schoolers Participate in Mock Trial During Recent Field Trip to U.S. Attorney’s Office

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida

MIAMI - Staff from the Law Enforcement Coordination and Community Outreach Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida recently hosted middle school students from Jane S. Roberts K-8 Center in Miami for a legal field trip.

The students, who were part of the school’s Student Government Association, saw inmate testimonial videos and participated in a mock trial in a federal courtroom. The videos showed impassioned pleas from inmates urging viewers to make better choices.

“I wasted my life … I wasted it,” said one former gang member, currently incarcerated and serving 25 years to life for murder.

Pre-COVID-19, inmates spoke to students in person. However, the messages—even over video—were powerful. Approximately 92 percent of those prosecuted in federal court either plead guilty or are convicted. 

“I think this is eye opening,” said Jaclyn Marrero, an intensive reading teacher at Jane S. Roberts K-8 Center. “It gives our students a feel for what life truly is about. It teaches them morals, values, and integrity. It’s important to understand how the real world operates versus what they see on television.”

Sometimes it comes down to a single choice that can have a lasting impact. 

“Bad decisions can have negative consequences that affect your life for years,” said Law Enforcement Coordination and Community Outreach Section Chief J.D. Smith. “Every day you must decide whether to be a good person or a bad person. As you get older, we encourage you all to make smart choices.”

The students then rode up to the eleventh floor and borrowed a courtroom for the mock trial. This is the sixth year that USAO-SDFL has hosted this activity.

“We used to take students up to an empty federal courtroom to see how imposing they are, but then we thought it was a perfect location for a life lesson,” said Smith. “Students could play all the roles in a trial and learn more about the criminal justice system.”

The young men and women jumped at the chance to be prosecutors and defense attorneys, with six on each side. One swore in witnesses as the clerk and 16 students made up the jury. The case involved a death due to hazing. Litigators studied the case, stood at the microphone, and did their best to sway the jury. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Thompson presided as judge.  

In the end, the prosecutors were too much for the defense team. The defendant was found guilty on all counts.

“We hope to teach the students to be good people to their families, friends, communities, and country,” said Smith. “If we reached only one student today, then it was time well spent.”




-Public Affairs Unit
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

Updated November 3, 2022

Community Outreach