Student defendant freed in mock trial in Common Pleas Court

May 14th, 2010    Author: Brett A. Roller    Filed Under: News

After a trial that lasted just four and a half hours, the case against St. Thomas Moore eighth grader Carsen Gerome was dismissed when Judge Kenneth Zuk declared a mistrial.

The jury of her peers, all St. Thomas Moore students, deadlocked during deliberation.

The trial was a special mock trial held in Zuk’s courtroom in Batavia Friday, May 7 as part of a St. Thomas civics lesson.

Gerome was charged with theft and robbery for a fictitious incident at a fictitious Eastgate computer store owned by St. Thomas Moore social studies teacher John Grachek.

According to the "court records" Gerome and her two friends and fellow students Alyson Schenz and Megan Schaefer went to "Gracheck's Computers" on Gerome's birthday with her mother's credit card. After Grachek showed the girls several laptop computers and cases, one of the girls asked to use the restroom. He walked her to the restroom and as they waited for their friend the other two girls danced around the store with a laptop in a laptop case.

As they approached the front of the store Grachek noticed the girls approaching the front entrance. He called out to them and ran to the front of the store. When Grachek approached Gerome she alleged that he startled her causing her to walk backwards through the security system, thus tripping the alarm. There was a scuffle in the entryway and Grachek's face was struck with the laptop before Gerome was stopped by a passing Sheriff's Deputy played by Carly Dugan.

The incident allegedly took place on March 1, 2009 and Gerome was subjected to the entire legal process during school assemblies. She was indicted on March 16 then arraigned on a $20,000 on recognizance bond cosigned by her Grandmother, Joan Ostendorf.

In preparation for the trial each member of the trial met with a mentor who holds a position related to their roles. Prosecuting attorneys Catherine Adams and Ashley Taylor met with Clermont County Assistant Prosecutor Scott O'Reilly. Defense attorneys Kuze Makore and Kelli Crowley met with Assistant Public Defender Cathy Adams. Private investigator Patrick McCracken met with witnesses Schenz, Schaefer, Connor Nelson, Dugan, and Grachek. Bailiff Jim "Boomer" Brinck mentored Paxton Knight. Zuk also met with jurors Becky Kellerman, Hannah Taylor, foreperson Marissa Miller, Danielle Piening, Monique Ostermann, Lacey O'Connell, Tanner Cardone, Mitch Gentile, Ethan Johnson, Tyler Gumbert, Kyle Johnson and Anthony Luster to explain the importance of the jury and prepare them for their duty. Zuk's Constable Melissa Gerome also played a vital role in coordinating the preparations and ensuring the day was a success.

Zuk began Friday by swearing in the jurors. Opening statements were heard from Adams and Makore.

The students then took turns grilling each witness before breaking for lunch provided by the Clermont County Law Library. After lunch closing arguments were heard and the juror deliberated before ultimately deadlocking.
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