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Mock trial gives teens taste of career possibilities
Manteca High junior Jasmine White of the prosecution team holds up the murder weapon during Thursday’s mock trial in Joe Waller’s ROP law enforcement class at Lindbergh School. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Jasmine White and Alexis Martinez were bound and determined to win the mock court case.

As students in Joe Waller’s Careers in Law Enforcement class, they were selected as the prosecution in the faux Shannon J. Jacobson vs. State of California murder trial.

“We spent time studying and memorizing our script,” said East Union High senior Martinez on Thursday.

As the jury deliberated, they thought they made a good case in presenting the “burden of proof,” believing that the defendant’s act included criminal intent along with malice and forethought.

“I’ll cry if we lose,” said lead prosecutor White, a junior at Manteca High.

That uncertainty quickly turned to elation for White and Martinez once the jury found Jacobson – a.k.a. Shaky – guilty of first degree murder.

“I’m super satisfied (with the verdict),” Martinez said.

White agreed, saying, “I think justice was served.”

For years, Waller has been conducting this two-part exercise involving students of Manteca Unified’s Regional Occupational Program.

His portable classroom at Lindbergh School was converted last month into a sports bar to stage the shooting death of Jerry Lee Lewis alias Sneaky Pete. The entire scene – also included was a domestic incident followed by a barroom brawl – was played out in all of Waller’s classes.

Many of the cast and characters from the barroom incident were back for the trial, with classroom transformed to a court house and equipped with a judge, prosecutor, defense, bailiff, court administrator, court clerk, court reporter, and expert witnesses.

The class picked MHS junior Joshua Delage as the judge.

“It was a fairly easy job since all I did was follow the script,” he said.

East Union High senior Julio Pacheco, who played the role of deejay at the sports bar, was a last-minute fill-in for Shaky.

Rachel Shaull and Christian Nelson, both of MHS, served as the defense.

“For us, it was a tough job knowing (our client) was guilty,” said Shaull, who accidentally broke a cue stick belonging to Waller to illustrate a point in her closing argument.

“I think I got the jury’s attention to what happened,” she added.

White, in her closing argument for the prosecution, took the weapon used as evidence and deliberately paused for effect between each “bang,” indicating, perhaps, that Shaky had time to think about his actions in gunning down Sneaky Pete, who reportedly was twice his size.

The jurors were made up of students from the Child Peer and Automotive ROP classes. Because of time constraints, the verdict was based on a majority decision.

They tallied a 9-3 guilty vote after about 10 minutes in deliberation. Those casting not guilty votes argued self defense on behalf of Jacobson.

For Waller, the verdict is usually consistent with that of his other classes.

His earlier class also voted guilty.

Waller is toying with the idea of tinkering next year’s script to help out the defense.