A group of high school teens sat on a jury in federal court in Salt Lake City on Wednesday and returned a verdict in a lawsuit over a student-athlete’s death.

The proceeding actually was a mock trial, but it gave the participants, including a few who played witnesses, a close look at how courts operate.

“It was definitely a unique and exhilarating experience,” said 17-year-old To’alima Mulitalo, of Buena Vista, Va., who played the role of the plaintiff.

The activity was part of the Civics, Law and Leadership Youth Camp hosted by Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and the Federal Bar Association. The five-day event began Monday and drew about 70 high school students from across the nation, as well as one from Jordan.

The camp — which debuts this year and is based at the BYU campus in Provo — includes learning experiences and talks by a variety of speakers designed to prepare youths for civic leadership and service. BYU law students are serving as mentors to the students.

On Wednesday, the students bused up to Salt Lake City to act as lawyers in mock trials. In U.S. District Judge David Nuffer’s courtroom, the students were divided into four juries and the panels split — two found in favor of the defendant, one awarded $200,000 to the plaintiff and one deadlocked.

The youths also got a tour of the courthouse and learned about court-related jobs such as court reporter, probation officer and IT worker.

Michael J. Newman, president of the Federal Bar Association, said the camp is an extension of a civics program his group developed with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to teach people about the three branches of government. The camp at BYU is the first of its kind in the United States, he said, and he hopes law schools across the country will use it as a model for their programs.

“I know it’s going to be a great success,” said Newman, who is a federal judge in Dayton, Ohio.

Participants in the Utah camp say he’s right.

“I loved it,” Banah Khamis, of Jordan, said of her experience, adding that playing a witness in one of the trials was fun.

The 15-year-old — whose parents earned masters’ degrees from BYU in comparative American law — wants to major in political science or international relations, then get a law degree.

Felipe De La Cruz, 17, of San Diego, said the camp will be helpful because he wants to practice law and go into politics. Fellow Californian Carrie Jia, 15, of Cupertino, who was a juror at the mock trial, liked learning how the courts work.

The leadership training at the camp interested Andrew Moss, a 17-year-old from Mission, Texas, who said participating in a mock trial proceeding also was a plus.

“I really enjoyed the way it exposed participants to areas of law and kept it fun and interactive,” the teen said.