ESCANABA - There was a "force" in the courtroom Thursday as the 2014 Delta Force class conducted a mock trial for their "Law and Order Day."
The Delta Force Leadership Development Program is a program through the Delta County Chamber of Commerce that aims to teach individuals how to be more involved citizens by allowing them to experience different aspects of the community. For Law and Order Day the participants were educated about different levels of law enforcement and the court process before experiencing a case of their own.
Eighteen members of the Delta Force participated in the mock trial, which followed the real-life case of Troy Jensen, Wade Jensen, and John Halverson who were found guilty of conspiracy to sell fish taken without a commercial license.
Ilsa Matthes | Daily Press
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Phil Strom presents closing statements for the defense during a mock trial held as part of the Delta Force Leadership Development Program’s Law and Order Day. The jury, composed entirely of Delta Force participants, deliberated in the jury room after hearing both sides of the case.
The Jensen brothers, both tribal commercial fishermen and members of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, were also charged with violating gear restrictions in tribal court after abandoned gill nets were found last fall. Wade Jensen was found guilty in tribal court, however, Troy was not found to be in violation of gear restrictions.
While the Delta Force class was educated about all aspects of the case, they were only responsible for the conspiracy charges during their mock trial. Delta County Prosecutor Steve Parks presented the prosecution's case and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Phil Strom presented for the defense.
"It's very serious business and you have to be respectful of the circumstances and the people and the rules of law," said Parks, noting a real trial would have been much more serious than the mock trial Delta Force participated in.
The participants in the mock trial went through the jury selection process, listened to remarks from both sides, and the Delta Force members that were selected for the jury went to deliberate before issuing a verdict. Delta Force found all three defendants guilty.
"It was phenomenal. It was really interesting to see how everything worked and went together and just how the system works," said Nick Nastoff, who was selected as a juror for the trial.
Three Delta Force participants were selected to sit as the defendants for the closing statements from the prosecution and defense. Those individuals had to wait while the jury deliberated.
"I was the defendant so that was a little nerve-wracking, but I've never seen (a trial) so it was nice to see how it worked," said Delta Force participant Mandy Vardigan.
The defendants in Thursday's mock trial were not sentenced as part of the experience due to the fact the sentencings are done at a later date and are handled by the judge. However, Judge Stephen Davis, who presided over the mock trial, noted that sentencing had to fit guidelines.
"Sentencing is part science and part art. The science is figuring out those guidelines; the art is figuring out what the sentence is going to be within them," he told the Delta Force participants that were acting as the defendants while the jurors were deliberating.
Overall the Delta Force participants viewed the experience as a positive one.
"It was kind of inspiring and informational; a great learning experience," said Delta Force class member Luke Siebert.