Students act out mock trial before prom

By

Colchester High School student Amber Sicard is led away by a Colchester police officer during a mock trial held last Friday. (Photo by Michaela Halnon)

A crowd of Colchester High School juniors and seniors jumped to their feet last week as a Colchester police officer announced the entrance of a judge. He took his place at the bench, solemnly flipping through a stack of papers.

CHS senior Amber Sicard sat upright at a nearby table, hands fidgeting and head bowed.

Sicard was playing the part of a drugged driver whose front-seat passenger was killed when her vehicle collided with another in the parking lot on prom night.

“Everybody’s got a role today,” organizer Colchester Police Lt. Doug Allen told the students. “[You have] the responsibility to decide what happens today. You are the jury.”

The mock trial is held at CHS every other year on the last school day before prom, alternating with a mock DUI crash.

The goal is to remind students of the grave consequences that can occur when a driver is under the influence, especially before celebratory events like prom and graduation when students are more likely to drink or use drugs, Allen said.

Last year, the senior class assembled in the Laker Ln. parking lot, taking in a bloody scene as EMTs, firefighters and police officers swarmed two wrecked cars, breaking students out with the Jaws of Life.

As student and faculty actors were treated for mock injuries, Sicard was pulled aside for questioning. There, she told police she wasn’t drunk but had smoked a small amount of marijuana and took prescribed muscle relaxers for back pain.

Allen said that decision was purposeful, noting the lack of programming focused on the dangers of drugged, rather than drunken, driving.

Unable to pass a series of screening tasks tailored specifically for drivers suspected of using drugs, Sicard was handcuffed and led to a cruiser parked nearby.

One student actor, then-senior Dakota Navari, laid still across the hood of a vehicle for the duration of last year’s exercise, simulating an unbuckled passenger who was killed after being thrown through the windshield.

That scene was recounted for CHS students in the gymnasium last Friday through the testimony of student witnesses, teachers and an expert medical examiner. Two area attorneys, Rob Backus and Heather Brochu,

A crowd of Colchester High School juniors and seniors jumped to their feet last week as a Colchester police officer announced the entrance of a judge. He took his place at the bench, solemnly flipping through a stack of papers.

CHS senior Amber Sicard sat upright at a nearby table, hands fidgeting and head bowed.

Sicard was playing the part of a drugged driver whose front-seat passenger was killed when her vehicle collided with another in the parking lot on prom night.

“Everybody’s got a role today,” organizer Colchester Police Lt. Doug Allen told the students. “[You have] the responsibility to decide what happens today. You are the jury.”

The mock trial is held at CHS every other year on the last school day before prom, alternating with a mock DUI crash.

The goal is to remind students of the grave consequences that can occur when a driver is under the influence, especially before celebratory events like prom and graduation when students are more likely to drink or use drugs, Allen said.

Last year, the senior class assembled in the Laker Ln. parking lot, taking in a bloody scene as EMTs, firefighters and police officers swarmed two wrecked cars, breaking students out with the Jaws of Life.

As student and faculty actors were treated for mock injuries, Sicard was pulled aside for questioning. There, she told police she wasn’t drunk but had smoked a small amount of marijuana and took prescribed muscle relaxers for back pain.

Allen said that decision was purposeful, noting the lack of programming focused on the dangers of drugged, rather than drunken, driving.

Unable to pass a series of screening tasks tailored specifically for drivers suspected of using drugs, Sicard was handcuffed and led to a cruiser parked nearby.

One student actor, then-senior Dakota Navari, laid still across the hood of a vehicle for the duration of last year’s exercise, simulating an unbuckled passenger who was killed after being thrown through the windshield.

That scene was recounted for CHS students in the gymnasium last Friday through the testimony of student witnesses, teachers and an expert medical examiner. Two area attorneys, Rob Backus and Heather Brochu, represented Sicard and Navari’s family, respectively.

Reading from a script, Sicard recounted her memories of prom night a year ago, telling the judge she was chosen as the designated driver among her friends. She decided not to drink, but still took prescription painkillers for back pain and smoked marijuana before getting behind the wheel.

In this scenario, witnesses said Sicard’s car collided with teachers in a different vehicle who were completing a routine check on school grounds.

Morgan Samler, a CHS physical education teacher, donned a fabric sling around his arm and told the judge his mock injuries impacted his ability to effectively complete his job.

Many in the crowd became emotional as Navari’s mother, Shelley, took the stand to talk about life without her son. As she recounted his first words, steps and lofty aspirations, Sicard’s parents Brian and Wendy wiped away tears.

“A part of me died that day,” Shelley Navari said, clutching a tissue. “This was my worst nightmare.”

Colchester High School students watch a mock trial last week. Held on alternating years, the skit aims to demonstrate the consequences of driving under the influence. (Photo by Michaela Halnon)

After closing statements concluded, a student handed down a piece of paper detailing the verdict from the student jury: guilty.

Attorney Joseph Farnham, acting as the mock judge, weighed his options before ordering Sicard serve three years in jail, effective immediately. As she was handcuffed and led away, Sicard asked to say goodbye to her parents.

“No,” was the sharp answer from the officer.

Later, Sicard’s parents said the emotions they felt as the mock trial progressed were genuine. Brian Sicard said some friends and family even called the couple after they saw scenes from the mock crash flash across the nightly newscast last year.

“It’s like every parent’s worst nightmare, and it can happen at any time,” Wendy Sicard said. “I can’t imagine.”