Teens get up close look at criminal justice field as part of Youth CSI Summer Camp

(FLORENCE, AZ June 14th, 2023) - From the callout to a mock crime scene, all the way through a mock trial, nearly 50 teens got a front row seat to the intricate workings of the criminal justice process.

The 2nd Annual Youth CSI Summer Camp wrapped up Friday, an immersive three-day experience that lets teens get a firsthand look at the various roles and potential career paths in the criminal justice field.

“It was a very good experience to have and I think a lot of other kids should go through it,” said Grace Woodall, a 15-year-old who attended the event.

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office partnered with Kayla Kully, who runs the STEM program at Poston Butte High School, to put on the three day camp. Students first learned about DNA and the fingerprinting process, and were even able to do it themselves.

“I hope that they see that there’s a bunch of different careers out there, so if they want to actually do a job like this, they can see what it actually entails,” Kully said.

The second day of the camp allowed students to watch a mock crime scene, where a ‘shooting’ took place at the high school, with a masked suspect targeting several people before fleeing the scene. With the help of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, the teens witnessed how deputies respond to such a scene, saw paramedics treat the pretend victims, and helped look for fingerprints and other evidence at the complex ‘crime scene.’

“It’s a whole…series of events where you take a case from birth to finality,” said County Attorney Kent Volkmer. “From the crime occurring all the way through trying it in a truncated, three day period.”

The third and final day of the camp allowed the teens to watch a mock trial at Pinal County Superior Court. Real attorneys from PCAO acted as both defense and prosecution as the sides called witnesses and the ‘defendant’ from the prior day’s mock crime scene stood trial.

“We’re just trying to give the kids a taste of what a courtroom really looks like,” Volkmer said.

The three days provides the teens with a realistic look at how first responders handle and process a complex crime scene, and how the evidence is preserved and then presented in court. This event hopefully gives the teens better insight into the various career paths and whether it is something they want to pursue.

“I definitely learned…what attorneys go through and I actually got to witness trial myself, so that was cool to go through,” Woodall said.

Woodall noted the experience has changed her career goals.

“Initially I was going into acting, whereas now I’m looking at being a trial attorney,” she said.

She also added the mock trial truly resonated with her. The jury, comprised of some of the students, found the ‘defendant’ guilty of all counts after hearing arguments from both sides, hearing witness testimony and seeing the collected evidence.

“That was a really good experience and I enjoyed it a lot,” Woodall said.

The camp is free and involves dozens of volunteers who work to make the experience as realistic as feasible.

“I hope the kids take away a new understanding of what it’s like to be in law enforcement and what it takes to process scenes,” said PCAO Community Liaison Latisha Joseph.

Volkmer said the event is geared towards giving teens an opportunity to get out of the house over the Summer, a chance to truly learn about the criminal justice process and perhaps spark an interest in their future goals.

“My secret kind of hope is that this will attract our youth into these different fields,” Volkmer said. “We need crime scene technicians, we need scientists, we need law enforcement, we need prosecutors, we need defense attorneys.”

Kully echoed that sentiment.

“It lets them see, ‘do I actually want to do this career, or is this not for me,” she said.

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office would like to thank all of the volunteers and partners who helped put this together, including the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Poston Butte High School, AMR and Rural Metro.