Schoolyard Terrorism: People v. Campbell

by Roger Alford

Here is the mock trial problem of People v. Campbell about schoolyard terrorism:

People v. Campbell is the trial of Casey Campbell, a senior at Park Lane High School. Casey is alleged to have placed a bomb in a trash can near the school’s cafeteria.

The defendant is charged with placing a bomb on school grounds, attempting to explode a device with intent to commit murder, putting an offensive substance in a place of public assemblage, and possessing a video game in violation of the School Violence in Video Games statute.

The prosecution alleges that Casey was a loner and believed Sawyer, the leader of a popular group on campus (called the “Crew”) was bullying Casey. The prosecution further alleges that Casey hated Sawyer and that Casey posted drawings on the Internet depicting Sawyer in peril and sought to harm Sawyer by placing a bomb where the Crew often gathered. The defense argues that Casey had nothing to do with the bomb found at Park Lane High School. It further argues that the artwork found on Casey’s R-Place page was merely an artistic expression of Casey’s. The defense and prosecution will each present witnesses, expert testimony, and physical evidence to support their arguments.

The pretrial issue involves the First Amendment’s provisions governing freedom of speech and expression. It focuses on the constitutionality of the School Violence in Video Games statute, which prohibits the possession of certain types of video games.

The defense asserts that the statute is unconstitutional. First, the defense argues that video games are a form of protected expression because they contain expressive elements entitled to First Amendment protection. Second, the statute does not serve a compelling state interest, and it is overbroad.

The prosecution asserts that the statute is constitutional. First, it argues that video games are not protected under the First Amendment because video games either do not convey any type of information or these games in particular fall within one of the stated exceptions to the First Amendment. Next, it argues that even if video games are constitutionally protected speech, the statute serves a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve its goal.

Here is the syllabus describing the mock trial:

Students in this elective course will examine the American judicial system with particular emphasis on criminal trial procedure. Topics of discussion will include the elements of various crimes, the responsibilities of law enforcement personnel, and the rights of criminal defendants. Students will analyze hypothetical factual situations and develop sophistication in spotting issues for both the prosecution and the defense. We will spend time examining trial strategy and analyzing opening arguments, direct and cross examinations, and closing arguments. Rules of evidence will also be studied.

Sounds like a fascinating mock trial for college students. But it actually is the problem written by the Constitutional Rights Foundation that seventh- and eighth-graders (mine included) are doing as part of the California Mock Trial. The winner from last year is pictured at right.

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