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Trial Practicum

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Drake is the only American law school where all first-year classes shift to a campus courtroom for a week, enabling students to view an actual state or federal trial.

The First-Year Trial Practicum, held in the Law School's Neal and Bea Smith Law Center courtroom, dissects every phase of a trial, from jury selection to jury verdict.

Students observe cases dealing with burglary, involuntary manslaughter, homicide by vehicle-OWI, and more. The event incorporates small group discussions, lectures, practice panels, and debriefings with attorneys, jurors, and the judge.

The trial practicum introduces the law to students in a way that no textbook can ever quite capture. Most importantly, the event models the values of civility, professionalism, and public service essential to the legal system.

The year's case was State of Iowa v. Andrea Sahouri. The defendant was charged with interference with official acts and failure to disperse. She was covering the protest near Merle Hay Mall for her job with the Des Moines Register when police began shooting pepper spray and ordering protesters to disperse after some people began damaging property and stealing from stores. The prosecution of a reporter covering a protest raised important issues regarding the First Amendment and press freedoms. Sahouri and co-defendant Spenser Robnett were acquitted on all charges after a jury trial lasting more than two days. 

Drake Law School is offering free access to the video recordings of the trial to the public. The videos can be accessed HERE.

Past Case Examples

State of Iowa v. Sera Alexander  – The defendant was charged with killing her stepfather.

State of Iowa v. Bernard Montez Davis – A case accusing the defendant of burglary in the third degree.

State of Iowa v. Phankhy Pongxayavong – This case involved a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

State of Iowa v. Andrea LaForge – This case involved homicide by vehicle-OWI, homicide by vehicle-reckless, and involuntary manslaughter.

State of Iowa v. Linda Wilson – The defendant was charged with theft in the second degree and theft in the third degree, both felonies.

State of Iowa v. John Molloy – A first-degree murder trial.

 

For more information about the history and pedagogy of the Trial Practicum read "Trial practicum integral to first-year law school curriculum", 90 JUDICATURE 114 (Nov.-Dec 2006), by Professor Emeritus Russell Lovell, II, the first director of the Trial Practicum program.

 
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