East Heights School sixth-graders participated in a mock trial to learn more about the judicial system.
The sixth-grade class at East Heights School waited in suspense for the verdict: Was Tony Little guilty of hitting classmate, Josh Ray, over the head with a book?
Tony's actions were ruled as self defense, and he was found not guilty by a jury of his peers.
"I was glad I was not guilty," Tony said. "I thought I was guilty when Steven (a witness) said I had a weapon."
The students were participating in a mock trial led by Douglas County Asst. Dist. Atty. Mark Knight. The goal was to teach students about the country's judicial system.
Knight designated the prosecution and defense teams, witnesses, a jury, a defendant and a victim.
"Who thinks they would be a good defense attorney?" Knight asked. Hands shot up as students eagerly volunteered for the positions.
Prosecutors and the defense team cross examined the victim, defendant and witnesses as part of the trial experience.
"They're starting to have an understanding of what it means to be a citizen and how the system works," Knight said. "With a mock trial, hopefully, they get a better understanding."
Knight said it's fun to see students get involved in the judicial process.
"Surprisingly, they come up with all the right stuff," he said.
Juror Jessica Tolbert agreed with the verdict, since Josh had provoked the fictitious fight.
She said, "I learned that there's a hard job picking if someone should be guilty or not."
However, RaShai Plymer had a different opinion. She believed Josh was unarmed and couldn't have done anything.
"You have to hear the whole story before you say what's right and what's wrong," she said.
The mock trial was part of the Schools to Careers program, said counselor Liz Novick.
"The more kids interact with our community," she said, "the more they feel a part of it."
Knight plans to return to the school later in the year to explain other judicial processes to the students.
-- Southwest Junior High students Annie McEnroe and William Mockry contributed to the story as part of the Schools to Careers program.
-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.