Kids' court

By Chris Dickerson | Feb 15, 2007

CHARLESTON -- It just goes to show how two juries can hear the same evidence and come to two different conclusions.

Wen West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Spike Maynard conducted a mock trial Tuesday with fifth-graders at Kanawha City Elementary, two student juries heard the testimony from witnesses. But one jury declared the defendant guilty, while the other ruled he was not guilty.

The mock trial case -- "The Case of the Jealous Boyfriend" -- was developed by a fifth-grade class at Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Academy in East Orange, N.J., as part of the 2000 New Jersey Bar State Bar Foundation's annual Law Fair Competition.

During the trial, Maynard told the students about the entire court process -- from picking juries to what would happen to the defendant if he was found guilty and if he was found not guilty. He guided the attorneys through the examination of witnesses and helped them prepare their closing arguments.

After sitting through and assisting with the hourlong trial, Maynard said he was impressed by the participants.

"I used to do mock trial when I was a circuit court judge in Mingo County," he said. "We used to do it there with 10th and 11th graders. But these fifth graders did just as well. It's just amazing to me what a great job they did.

"They understand a lot about how a trial works."

Maynard was invited to return to the school after he read aloud to the same students in January as part of the Supreme Court's Robes to Schools program.

The case focused on whether Johnnie NoGood murdered Don Juan, a new student at Beat Street Elementary. Johnnie NoGood was portrayed by Chris Khoury.

John Proctor and Brai Spence serves as the prosecuting attorneys, while John Riggs and Evan Kay were the defense attorneys.

Witnesses included Aaron Simms as Stephan Cool, Cortni Stovall as Eve Preston and Joshua Stapler as Big Bruno Butch. Jensen Lorea served as the judge.

"It was a lot of fun," Proctor said. "You had to know when to take turns and know what to ask. It was interesting."

Kay agreed.

"You have to know what you're supposed to say," he said. "And you have to try not to get nervous. I did get nervous, but I did it. It was fun. We like having Justice Maynard here."

Riggs said he might become a lawyer.

"Being a lawyer can be hard and nerve-wracking," he said. "Very suspenseful. But it was a lot of fun."

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