Mock court lesson turns real life for DHS students

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 28, 1999

By MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / April 28, 1999

DESTREHAN – Destrehan High School Students Against Destructive Decisions held court Friday afternoon to show fellow students what can happen if they choose to drink and drive.

Judge Emile St. Pierre of the 29th Judicial District Court presided overthe mock trial. SADD president Brooke Crocker played the role of a studentaccused of killing her prom date in a drunk driving accident. RandiFriedman played her defense attorney, while Jodi Friedman acted as the prosecutor.

In the accident, Crocker’s vehicle collided with a vehicle driven by fellow student Danielle Duhe while making a turn from Airline Highway onto Ormond Boulevard on the night of Destrehan’s prom. The accident killedCrocker’s date and left Duhe with a broken arm and paralyzed from the waist down.

Both sides gave their opening arguments with Jodi Friedman asking the jury to find Crocker’s character guilty of vehicular homicide after a test showed that her blood-alcohol level was .14 percent after the accident,above the .08 legal level. Randi Friedman disputed the charge, asking thather client instead be found guilty of vehicular negligence for misjudging the time needed for turning at a yellow light.

Duhe and fellow student Veronica Castellon were called as witnesses for the defense, while the prosecution called on Crocker to testify. Crocker’scharacter admitted to having a few beers but said she did not feel drunk.

After both sides gave their closing arguments, St. Pierre asked the jury torule on the case, giving it the principles of law they had to follow.

Before the decision was rendered, however, the students heard a talk from Jackson Moss, a 22-year-old LSU student who was involved in a drunk driving accident that killed his friend in December in St. Charles Parish.”I’m a lot like you,” Moss told approximately 300 students in the audience.

“I’m a son, a brother, a student. The only difference is an experience.”Moss, a resident of Abbeville, gave the details of his experience, saying that after finishing final exams at LSU he decided to go to a friend’s house to watch Monday Night Football. They had a few beers there and thendecided to go to another place, where they had a few more. Then they madea decision to drive to New Orleans.

Along the way they talked and were having a good time. The next thingMoss realized was that he was in an ambulance. He couldn’t move his neck.When he didn’t see his friend, Moss said he realized he was dead. Mosslater found out he had rear-ended an 18-wheeler and his car had caught fire. He had been pulled out of the car, but his friend could not be saved.”At the time, it was a simple decision,” Moss said. “If you are going todrink, don’t get behind the wheel. It was painfully obvious. Looking back, Iwish I hadn’t done it.

“The moral of the story – it can happen to anybody. It’s a simple decision,don’t drink and drive. I got in an accident and lost a friend. If I could doanything to change the past, I would.”Moss said the hardest part was facing his friend’s parents.

“Put yourself in my shoes at that point and think about it,” Moss told the students. “What are you going to say? It’s a position, trust me, you don’twant to be in.”St. Pierre then addressed the students, saying that in the mock trialCocker’s character would be found guilty.

St. Pierre was also Moss’ judge and had him sit in jail for one night beforesetting bond for emphasis. St. Pierre sentenced him to five years in jailwith four years suspended and one year of home incarceration. Moss wasalso put on probation for five years, assessed a $2,000 fine and had an inter-locking device put in his car that will shut down the car if alcohol is detected.

Before issuing the sentence, St. Pierre said he consulted with the familyof the victim and received a letter from them saying they held no animosity toward Moss. Moss was also ordered to speak twice a year to St.Charles Parish groups like that at Destrehan Friday.

Crocker said the events portrayed in the trial occur all too often, and it all comes down to a simple decision to not drink and drive.

“Remember you are in control of your life, and you make your own decisions,” Crocker told her fellow students. “Please make the correctdecision to stay sober. Your life may depend on it.”Crocker said she hopes the program will have an effect on her fellow students.

“I hope when they go out, they remember Jackson,” Crocker said. “He’s areal person. If it can happen to him, it can happen to anybody. I hope itopens eyes that it can happen to anyone.”The trial was put together by members of the SADD organization at Destrehan. Sponsor Jennifer Acosta said she believes it will have more onan impact coming from fellow students than it would have been coming from a lecture or a film.

“I think it was really good,” Acosta said. “I feel really good about it.”St. Pierre agreed that the live program had a greater impact.”It shows real life,” St. Pierre said. “As Moss said, it can happen to you.”The scenario for the trial was put together by Jodi and Randi Friedman, but Jodi said a lot of the dialogue was ad libbed to make it more realistic.

“I know teen-agers are going to drink,” Jodi Friedman said. “We just wantthem to be responsible with it. I hope by seeing somebody go through it, ifthey drink, they decide not to drive. It’s just not worth it.”

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