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Mock trial highlights domestic abuse issues.

Byline: Bill Fortier

AUBURN - Domestic Violence Awareness Week wound down yesterday with a mock trial in which high school senior Diana J. Bies learned why it can be so difficult for a victim of an attack to bring the matter into the public eye.

In the mock trial held in the high school auditorium, a jury of six high school students found Miss Bies' boyfriend, senior Sean Redmond, not guilty of assault and battery on her; assault on her friend, Julie L. Sbrogna; disturbance of school or assembly; and malicious destruction of property.

"I was upset," Ms. Bies said after the mock trial as Mr. Redmond softly stroked her hair. "I was upset the jury didn't believe my story. It's really like being a victim twice."

High school guidance counselor Amy B. Sampson said the mock trial was based on an "incident" in which Mr. Redmond and Miss Bies, who have been in a relationship for about two years, exchanged words after Miss Bies gave her telephone number to an older boy.

The incident was staged at lunch in a full cafeteria at the high school Monday morning. Miss Bies and Miss Sbrogna claimed Mr. Redmond grabbed Miss Bies' arm and slapped a lunch tray from Miss Sbrogna during an angry confrontation in front of about 70 students. Mr. Redmond, acknowledging under testimony he swore at Miss Bies, denied any physical action.

Auburn Police Detective Sgt. Jeffrey A. Lourie read the charges and swore in the three people who testified. Assistant District Attorney Leonardo A. Angiulo represented the state's case, while Assistant District Attorney Timothy M. Farrell represented Mr. Redmond.

"He made me nervous," said Miss Sbrogna, looking at Mr. Farrell, who said his job is a defense attorney is to cast doubt on the validity of the prosecution's claims.

Ellen Miller of the Worcester District Attorney's office presided over the case. She told the students her job was to give them as close an approximation as possible of a real trial.

She also commended Mr. Redmond for the role he played.

"This was really against character for him," she told the approximately 100 students who watched the mock trial. "It was hard for him to get like that."

The mock trial lasted about 80 minutes and was videotaped.

After the testimony was heard, the jury deliberated for about three minutes before returning the not guilty verdicts. One juror said the not guilty pleas were delivered because the students believed Mr. Redmond's actions at the staged incident were not done on purpose.

Before the jury stepped out into the hallway to deliberate, Patrolman Paul Lombardi said he noticed some jurors who were in the cafeteria Monday when the incident occurred seemed to disagree with parts of the testimony. He said they must only consider the testimony they heard in the mock trial when rendering their decision.

Students in teacher Jeffrey Cormier's psychology and criminal justice courses will be talking about the mock trial during upcoming classes.

Patrolman Lombardi said he will be talking to the students about the verdict in the trial and what it means to others who find themselves in situations similar to the one portrayed by Miss Bies.

"We hardly ever do domestic abuse trials," Patrolman Brian Kennedy said, adding that two students talked to him this week about abusive relationships they are in.

Ms. Sampson said the school last held a domestic violence awareness week four years ago.

Along with Monday's staged incident and yesterday's mock trial, the week featured a visit Tuesday by Larry Santoro of Daybreak, who talked about healthy relationships; a talk by Ms. Miller Thursday about the issues involved in domestic violence; and a display in the school presentation room Wednesday, sponsored by the Worcester Rape Crisis Center, called the Clothesline Project. That project features women's stories of abuse that are placed on shirts and hung on a clothesline.

"I think the week went really well and the kids got a lot out of it," Ms. Sampson said after the mock trial. "They were very interested and they asked a lot of good, tough, thoughtful questions."

"I think this has been a very good week," Patrolman Kennedy said.



CUTLINE: Domestic Violence Awareness Week at Auburn High School concluded with a mock trial yesterday. From left, facing camera, Ellen Miller portrays the judge and senior Julie L. Sbrogna portrays a witness for the prosecution. From left, backs to camera, senior Diana J. Bies portrays the victim and Assistant District Attorney Leonardo A. Angiulo is the prosecutor.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 17, 2007
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