Grundy Youth Leadership students, along with students from a Grundy County High School criminal justice class, participated in a mock trial on Monday. The day began for the students with an introduction to the various county offices as county officials explained their duties. After learning about county government, students headed to the Grundy County Jail where one participant was “arrested.” The students then returned to the Grundy County Courthouse for the mock trial.
Playing the role of the defendant was Dawson Misiolek, a sophomore at GCHS. At the jail, he was arrested by Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum and booked into jail by Jail Administrator Melinda Meeks. Deputies handcuffed and placed leg irons on Dawson, who then answered questions asked of all persons being booked into the jail. Sheriff Shrum explained the booking process to all the students before they headed back to the courthouse for the trial.
Once in the courtroom, jurors were chosen from the Grundy Youth Leadership students. The jurors included Evan Turner, Kaitlyn Kirby, Kristen Stiefel, Alexis Brady, Lacie Woodlee, Briley Dempsey, Kendal Winton, MaKayla Kirby, Jacob Caldwell, Alex Killian, Zachary Parson, Andrew Barrett, Chris Nance, Drew Melton, and Sidnee Scissom.
Kennedy Brady, also a Youth Leadership student, worked with Grundy County Herald to cover the trial from a reporter’s standpoint.
The trial began with the defendant’s father, played by Zac Campbell, on the stand. He was called by Assistant District Attorney David McGovern who questioned Campbell about a “party that took place at his home while he was not there.” As the questioning continued, it was clear to the jurors that the case centered on a party that had taken place at Campbell’s home when he was not present and during which underage drinking took place. Attorney Paul Cross, defendant Dawson Misiolek’s lawyer, also questioned Campbell.
Other witnesses were called to the stand and acted their parts with a wealth of knowledge. Witnesses called included Matt Borne (at the party but not drinking), Paul Allen Harvey (the teenage host of the party), Kaylee Smartt (a friend of the defendant who was at the party), Jalie Rollins (the defendant’s mother), and Leah Hiett (the pregnant women who was involved in a car crash caused by the drunk defendant).
After both attorneys made their closing arguments, the jurors entered the jury room to debate the defendant’s guilt. Tensions were high with one juror holding out because he felt insufficient evidence was presented at the trial. The jury finally returned and said they could not reach a verdict.
Throughout the trial, the students were mentored by officials and attorneys, all of whom paused on occasion to explain different aspects of the judicial process. The Honorable William R. Anderson, III heard the case with Circuit Court Clerk Penny Sons acting in her professional role as the court clerk. Register of Deeds Gayle Vanhooser, who is a Grundy Youth Leadership mentor, worked with Youth Leadership mentors Allison Borne and Jessica Lusk to organize the event.
At the conclusion of the trial, Judge Anderson spoke with the students about the outcomes of court cases and invited those interested to attend real trials, beginning with Drug Court in February.
The students broke for lunch, catered by Close to Home Restaurant, and toured Moffit Manor before returning to the high school.
The Grundy Youth Leadership program gives students the opportunity to participate in experiences such as the mock trail while learning about their county and developing leadership skills. The program is funded by donations from local organizations, businesses, and community members. To make a donation, please send a check to Grundy Youth Leadership, C/O Al-lison Borne, 24970 SR 108, Coalmont, TN 37313.