Students in the Criminal Justice program argue their case

CJ students in front of court

Students Ben Neilson, Derrick Wratchford and Kayla VanMeter argued their case in front of Judge Philip Jordan as part of a class project in Nick Goff’s criminal justice class at Potomac State College of West Virginia University.

Students Stephen "Ben" Neilson, Derrick Wratchford and Kayla VanMeter were part of a CJ 225 Criminal Procedure class from Potomac State College of West Virginia University that recently received real world experience at the court house in Keyser, W.Va.

Students from the class had their day in court as they argued their cases in front of Judge Philip Jordan, applying their classroom knowledge about suppression of evidence in a real courtroom setting.

Before heading to the courthouse, students learned about different areas of criminal procedure that has to do with submission and suppression of evidence into criminal proceedings, and all of the constitutional standards that surround the evidence. Ultimately, the actions of police officers pursuant to these criminal procedure standards will likely be challenged in the courtroom in what’s known as pre-trial suppression hearings.

“If you’ve ever heard of evidence being thrown out on a technicality, that’s what these students are learning, so as a final project the students must apply their knowledge in front of a real judge,” said Nicklaus Goff, visiting instructor in criminal justice at the College.

The students were given factual scenarios and had to apply the law to those scenarios. They formed groups and then further subdivided those groups into a prosecution team and a defense team. They submitted a written memorandum explaining their arguments and then made oral arguments before Judge Jordan as to whether the evidence should be introduced or suppressed.

According to Judge Jordan, the defense team of Neilson, Wratchford and VanMeter won their argument that evidence seized by the police should not be introduced in a court of law against their client.

All three students are criminal justice majors. Neilson, a graduate of Mountain Ridge High School, is from Barton, Md.; Wratchford, a graduate of Keyser High School, is from Burlington, W.Va.; and VanMeter, a graduate of Allegany High School, is from LaVale, Md.