A student died after being thrown through the windshield of a vehicle in which she was a passenger.
Now the student who was the driver is on trial for negligent homicide.
This scenario is being played out by students in mock trial at Brainerd High School. Senior Peter van der Hagen plays a lawyer on the mock trial case and was named this week's Fine Arts Student of the Week.
Marilyn LaShomb, mock trial adviser, said, "Through mock trial, Peter has gained a practical understanding of the way in which the American legal system functions. As a two-year participant as both a witness and lawyer he has developed important life skills, critical analysis of problems, reasoning, listening, oral presentation and extemporaneous argument."
Van der Hagen's first mock trial competition this season was in Carlson County last week. He joined mock trial in the middle of the season last year and played the bailiff. This year he wanted to be more involved in mock trial and decided to play the role of a lawyer.
"I am intrigued with the whole doctorate of law," he said. "Ever since I began looking at college plans I have been interested in law."
Van der Hagen is looking at pursuing an engineering degree at Michigan Technological University and then will get a law degree. He'd like to work with corporations on intellectual property cases.
PETER VAN DER HAGEN
Art focus: Mock trial
Art activities: Speech
Favorite subjects: English and physics
Most memorable fine arts achievement: Earned first alternate in the state speech contest and won this year's first mock trial competition
Artist most admired: Ludwig van Beethoven
Favorite movie: "Shindler's List"
Favorite TV program: "Family Guy"
Favorite song: "Clocks"
Parents: Jon and Karen van der Hagen of Baxter
During the mock trial case, van der Hagen will bring up a few points to present into evidence. He then will ask questions and the witness will have to state the facts to the jury.
Van der Hagen said he researches the case inside and out and speculates what the other side will ask the witness. He also speculates about what the opponents may object to so he can prepare a statement on what he would say to the judge.
At each mock trial, the school will play either the defendant or the prosecution. Brainerd played the defendant last week and played the prosecution Tuesday during a meet in Pine County. Van der Hagen said playing both sides of the case is helpful, as well as the case itself.
"It is easier to fight for or against a student since I am a student myself," he said.
Van der Hagen said he can relate to the case where the student driver changes a compact disk while driving, then swerves to miss a pedestrian and rolls the vehicle, killing a passenger.
"I think twice now when I get a CD out," he said.
Being in mock trial, van der Hagen has learned he needs to look at all the possibilities of a scenario and not be too judgmental. He said nothing in mock trial has swayed his interest from law. He said the competitions are fun, interesting and fast paced.
"It helps me think on my feet," he said. "They (the opponents) can catch you off-guard, but you can catch them off-guard too."
Van der Hagen said his public speaking skills, as well as his hand gestures and voice tone, have helped him be successful in the case.
When asked his favorite television show relating to law, his response was "Law and Order."
"It's fun to see how they approach a case," he said, "and the theatrics they do for the case."
Carmen Cummings, sophomore, Debate: Cummings placed third at both the Brainerd and Mitchell tournaments and was a runner-up at the National Qualifying Tournament. Cummings' debate adviser said, "Carmen has just finished the most successful varsity debate season ever had by a sophomore. Carmen has been a hard worker and a fierce competitor."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.