Michael Cano is a local Army recruiter.
On Friday, he had a chance to serve as a guest juror in the People vs. Shannon J. Jacobson mock trial held in Joe Waller’s Careers in Law Enforcement class.
The classroom in the Manteca Unified district office complex was once again transformed to a courtroom equipped this time with an elaborate sound system thank to Karl Knutsen, the retired JROTC instructor.
Waller recalled that when he started doing the mock trials some 20 years ago the setup was modest, limited to a few chairs.
“We had students from Ripon at the time. They’re the ones who came up with the design for the (classroom) courtroom,” he said, holding up some of those original plans.
As for Cano, he appeared to have enjoyed his morning in the jury box of the mock trial involving students from Waller’s Weston Ranch High class.
“In my opinion, the trial is make or break, based on the closing arguments,” he said.
In this case, Amaya Finley was back as the acting defense attorney. She was teamed up with Jonathan Valle – the two were out to prove via majority decision (due to time constraints) that their client Jacobson a.k.a. Shaky, as played by WRHS junior Chris Ivan Orpill, acted in self defense for shooting death of Jerry Lee Perkins better known as Sneaky Pete.
Waller pointed out to the jury – along with Cano, Executive Director Joann Beattie from the Manteca Chamber of Commerce was a guest juror – that the mock trial was a follow-up to the Star Bar shooting incident held prior to the winter break in his classroom.
Jacobson gunned down the much-bigger Perkins after being struck in the head by a cue stick in an earlier meeting involving his girlfriend. Orpill, in the spirit of his character, even sported an eye patch as a result of that beating.
“I think I’m not guilty,” he said prior to the verdict. “If not, I’ll be in jail for a long time.”
Finley was out to prove otherwise. She played that same character a year ago, with her client being found not guilty of first degree murder.
Cheyenne Yodong and Timothy Duong represented the prosecution.
“We think he’s guilty – he exited the bar and came back with a gun,” Duong said.
Yodong, in her closing argument, said that Jacobson “was gone for about an hour, which would have given him plenty of time for a cooling period.”
Finley, who convincingly slammed a cue stick to the table to make her point, said that her client had a “right to defend himself.”
Beattie, for one, found that action, in this case, to be convincing enough. “The burden of proof wasn’t all there (for the prosecution),” she said.
Others on the jury were WRHS counselors and students.
In the end, Jacobson was found not guilty by an 11-1 count. He clapped his hand to celebrate the verdict.
In Waller’s earlier mock trial involving Lathrop High and Sierra High students, the verdict was also an 11-1 count, finding Jacobson guilty of first degree murder.
“I voted guilty,” said sophomore Robbie Hewitt. “(Jacobson) had a whole hour to think about his actions – it doesn’t take emptying out six shots (into the victim).”
Waller, meanwhile, was baffled by the decision of the last mock trial that followed – the exercise consisting of Manteca High and East Union High students resulted in a hung jury.
In prior years, his classes have been consistent in casting votes on verdict. “All three would usually vote way or the other, across the board,” he said.
No word yet on Waller possibly changing up the script for next year.
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail email@example.com.