Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mock trial; real consequences

by Staff Sgt. Jessica Haas
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/17/2014 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- A group of Airmen gather into a large open room filled with benches, two desks, a head table and a few side tables. A girl sits off to the left crying. A man sits to the right looking straight ahead, emotionless. Attorneys, witnesses and the jury take their places, waiting for the judge to arrive and start the trial.

Airmen attending the First Term Airmen Center and Noncommissioned Officer Professional Enhancement Seminar at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, had the opportunity to view such a court proceeding, Apr. 16, 2014.

As viewers sit to observe a court case involving sexual assault, they have no idea what they are about to watch is only an act.

"Mock trials provide a realistic view of the Military Justice System," said Capt. Erin Kenny, 8th Fighter Wing Judge Advocate chief of civil law. "Additionally, I think it is really important people see the implications of sexual assault for both the victim and the accused."

While a mock trial is only a demonstration of an actual court martial, elements of a trial are still performed just as they would be in actual cases, using actors for both the accused and witnesses. The legal office coordinates with the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator to deliver a joint briefing after the verdict.

"We use mock trials to educate members about the military justice system in what we hope is a more interesting manner than just using PowerPoint," said Maj. Lee Sanderson, 8th FW JA staff judge advocate. "Airmen get to see common sexual assault fact patterns, the impact these cases have on those involved and the fairness of the system. We always follow the mock trial with a group discussion and allow the viewers to ask questions."

Many people benefit from this type of education and training because various sides of the issues are presented to the Airmen.

"FTAC and NCOPES students normally attend the mock trials, and we hope our efforts prevent sexual assaults by showing our young Airmen and NCOs all sides of the issue," said the major. "The students learn about the services available to anyone who has been assaulted such as the SARC, our medical providers, the chaplains and the Air Force Special Victims Counsel. They also learn about the rights of anyone accused of such a crime, which include the services of a completely independent Area Defense Counsel."

Sanderson said some attendees actually believe the trial is real, which generates great questions by the students in the discussion afterwards. He also believes two-way discussion engenders far better learning than a one-way briefing.

"It was good to see what happens after the arrest, my job," said Airman 1st Class Wyatt Hall, 8th Security Forces Squadron First Term Airman Center student. "They implied it was real and the trial was a great teaching tool."

Although the trial isn't real, sexual assault and the consequences are. With the 8th FW JA providing interactive and captivating training, Airmen are armed with the knowledge and awareness needed to focus on the mission and continue to fight against sexual assault.

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