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Not Guilty, Your Honor: Valley students shine at Saginaw County Law Day

March 28th, 2019

A series of Valley Lutheran students showed a glimpse of their bright futures, even if taking advantage of that one day means you’re probably having a bad day.

Twelve Valley students took part in Saginaw County Law Day on Thursday, March 21 trying a fictional case in front of an actual magistrate at the Saginaw County courthouse.

“They won a not-guilty verdict on pretty much a slam dunk guilty case,” VLHS Academic Dean Dr. Lisa Meyers said. “They picked a strategy and really stuck to it over and over again. They did such a good job.”
In the fictional case, a Valley student played the part of a teenager who was texting and driving in a construction zone. He swerved to miss an oncoming vehicle striking and killing a construction worker.

“There was another individual who was an 88-year old, one-eyed man that cut my client off,” Valley senior Zach Marotzke said. “What we tried to do was pin the blame over there. Since the jury was made up of high school students, we tried to make them feel sympathetic towards the high school student’s perspective of how it happened. Then we were able to show that it was a result of the other guy making my client make the swerve that caused the accident.”

Marotzke and Katie Wilson played the part of lawyers with Andy Fritz serving as the defendant. Kelsey Vittitow, Abi Walk, and Megan Mattichak served as witnesses.

If you have information about a Valley student, staff member, or alumni that is news worthy, please share with us at news@vlhs.com.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Fritz said. “I wasn’t nervous during any of the practices, but then we got to court and everyone hated me. Obviously, it wasn’t me. I was playing a part, but all the prosecutors were saying all these bad things about the part I was playing and everyone was looking at me like, ‘How could you do all these bad things.’”

Magistrate Richard Alger Jr. presided over the day, which included 20 schools playing the role of prosecutors and defense attorneys in the same case 10 times. Valley was 1 of 2 schools to return a not-guilty verdict.

“We were up against St. Charles, and when the jurors left the courtroom, I had no idea which way it would go because they were both so strong,” Meyers said. “The judge was impressed.”

Carson Hundley, David Jahnke, Nathaniel Mueller, Valerie White, Anna Katenhus, and Allison Lemanski, attended to serve as jurors in one of the other cases. Students from Freeland High School served as jurors in Valley’s case.

“The theme this year was, ‘Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society’ and emphasizing people’s rights, but also their responsibilities,” Meyers said. “So they did texting and driving to really get kids thinking how dangerous that is.”

Meyers said the group spent six weeks preparing for the case, including visiting with attorneys Darrell Zolton (VL ‘80) and Eric Dalek to polish up the details of the team’s case, as well as to learn proper procedure.

“It was cool,” Marotzke said. “You had all the regalities with standing and showing (the magistrate) the proper respect, calling him Your Honor, and using legal terms.”

The Saginaw County Bar Association put on a lunch for the participants at First Presbyterian Church following the day’s conclusion.