It took five years, but Oklahoma County District Judge Jerry D. Bass is set to preside over a criminal trial on the campus of his former law school.
After jury selection in the trial of a man accused of eluding a police officer and speeding, the proceedings will move Tuesday from Bass' courtroom downtown to the Homsey Family Moot Courtroom at the Oklahoma City University School of Law.
“I'm so happy that we finally got this trial,” said Bass, a 1991 OCU law school graduate whose past attempts to bring a trial to OCU were derailed by logistical problems.
A couple of high-profile murder trials posed potential security risks. More recently, the defendant in a drug case headed to OCU entered a plea and avoided trial.
James William Bowie, 43, of Oklahoma City, the man accused of leading police on a pursuit in January 2011 that reached speeds of 100 mph, is out of custody, and does not pose a security risk, Bass said.
Holding court on campus will expose many of the law school's 550 students to a setting they have never experienced, the judge said.
“They get to see the real world,” Bass said. “They don't get a lot of chances to come sit through a trial.”
Jury selection begins Monday at the Oklahoma County Courthouse and then moves to the mock courtroom at OCU for witness testimony and the presentation of evidence.
The auditorium-style venue seats as estimated 200 people.
Shanika Chapman, a third-year law student, said the trial will be an “invaluable” learning tool.
“For many of us, there is no greater way to learn how to do something than by seeing it,” she said. “I can't count how many litigators have told me that the best way to learn how to become a good litigator is by watching good litigators.”
The trial will return to Bass' courtroom for closing arguments and jury deliberation.
“This is an opportunity for our students to see what criminal trial litigation is really like and to see the rules of evidence in action,” said Valerie Couch, law school dean.
Dan Morgan is a longtime OCU law school professor who teaches trial practice. He and Bass have worked together for two years to bring a trial to the university.
“Litigation is the way our legal system operates, and I think out students need to see up-close and personal how this works,” Morgan said Friday. “That's what the lion's share of them are training for.”
Morgan, who has been teaching law courses at OCU since 1981, is planning to retire as a full-time professor in the spring of 2013.
“I really appreciate the super effort that Judge Bass has made to do this,” he said. “So having one last fling to get this trial is something that is very important to me and something that will make a difference to our students.”