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02-22-03: Practicing justice for all
Celina student teams compete in mock trial

The Daily Standard
    The girls wore long, flowing dresses and the boys were dressed neatly in tuxedos.
    No, it wasn't prom night. The area high school students were dressed in Civil War era clothing to portray witnesses and attorneys for the 2003 District Mock Trial competition held in Celina on Friday. The 1800s theme was chosen in celebration of Ohio's 2003 bicentennial.
    Twelve teams from seven area high schools including Celina, Sidney, Lehman Catholic, Findlay, Archbold, Marysville and Sylvania, competed for points during several simultaneous mock trials held in city buildings.  The teams were vying for a chance to go to Columbus in March for the final mock trial championship round.
    The two teams from Sylvania Southview High School earned the most points in the competition Friday and will compete in Columbus against 44 other teams from all over the state. The final championship round will be played in the 1860s era Ohio Village on March 13-15.
    Two teams from Celina High School participated in this week's competition; Team 1 placed fifth, and Team 2 placed seventh out of 12 teams in the local competition.
    The fictitious court case, played out by the 12 teams in three locations near the Mercer County Courthouse, was based on the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Kentucky native Lamdin P. Miller, by soldiers of the North's Union delegation at the time of the Civil War. A farmer who claimed to be an inactive member of the Sons of Liberty, Miller was accused of treason by inciting an insurrection and siding with the South at a rally on his farm Sept. 25, 1864. He was being held in a federal prison.
    The mock court proceeding was being argued by students acting as attorneys for the government vs. students acting as attorneys for the petitioners seeking to get Miller out of prison. There were witnesses for both sides.
    "We believe that Lamdin Miller encouraged others to gather arms and riot," said Celina senior Cam Mahle during opening statements while playing the part of the government's attorney for his team. "We ask that justice be served."
    Celina Team 1 was led by "attorneys" Dan Gudorf and Mahle, both seniors. The pair faced a tough Sidney team during the first session.
    The Sidney attorneys did not waiver. They wasted no time placing the imprisoned petitioner Miller (Rachael Aldridge, a Sidney high school senior, donning a painted moustache) on the stand for questioning. When questioned about his politics, Miller responded in a deep Southern drawl, "I was a Union soldier but I didn't really care for the reasons we were fighting. But I do love my country."
    Mahle and Gudorf questioned Miller and several other witnesses to the alleged treasonous rally with quick wit and plenty of objections. The Sidney team acting as petitioner Miller's legal team, bounced back by portraying Miller as a nonviolent farmer who held a peaceful gathering on his farm to celebrate a bountiful harvest.
    "Then what about the muskets, revolvers and cartridges delivered to your farm?" Mahle asked Miller. The attorney referred to an alleged large amount of weaponry delivered to the farm the day of the rally.
    "You talked about Ogetting rid of the current administration," the attorney added.
    Aldridge, acting as Miller, denied receiving a shipment of firearms and ammunition as Mahle had accused. The defendant told the panel of three judges he did nothing but talk peacefully about the war at the gathering.
    But the Celina team of government attorneys submitted into evidence a damaging flyer allegedly sent out by Miller to invite guests to the Fall Harvest celebration. At the bottom of the flyer was a Confederate flag.
    In closing arguments, Sidney High School senior Adam Hawk argued that the Union soldiers "in a blatant display of abusive power," arrested Miller, violating his 5th Amendment rights.
    "Instead, he was held without due process," Hawk argued in Miller's defense, adding that Miller is fighting for the rights of all Americans.
    Gudorf argued back during the government's closing statement.
    "We've proven he (Miller) was not only an active member of the Sons of Liberty, but that he was a general," Gudorf said. "Lamden was their leader. There was a flag at the bottom of that flyer ... he betrayed our nation."
    Gudorf also argued that habeas corpus  (a writ or law requiring that a detained person be brought before a court to decide the legality of the imprisonment) does not apply in this case because the crime was committed against the nation and in a time of war.
    "His actions helped prolong this war," Gudorf stated.
    The three judges hearing the case were local attorneys Matt Gilmore, Dan Myers and Kathryn Speelman. Gilmore commended both teams for their performance following the conclusion of the trial. He told one of the witnesses she had a "great poker face," and reminded another not to use words like "awesome" in a Civil War era case.
    "I loved the accent," he told Aldridge who portrayed Miller. "Everyone of you can be proud of your performance."
    More than a dozen local attorneys served as judges for the local mock trial competition, and Mercer County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fox coordinated the event on behalf of the Mercer County Bar Association.


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