MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- "All rise," said the bailiff.
As the courtroom was called to attention, the people prepared to hear a case of a crime that happens too often in society É attempted murder.
Mock Road Elementary students and teachers held a mock trial Monday to learn about the judicial system of government. The students spent previous weeks learning about the executive, legislative and judicial systems of government.
Students witnessed the trial of Big Bad Wolf, played by student Robert Gilford, vs. Curly Pig. Pig, played by student Jeremy Lewis, was accused of placing a steaming cauldron of boiling water at the end of a chimney in a attempt to cook the Wolf who tried to enter the Pig's home illegally.
The trial was a visual learning tool for the students to see what actually happens during a trial proceeding.
Maj. Brian Jackson, the base's staff judge advocate, served as the presiding judge over the case, while students filled the roles of jury members and counselors.
The plaintiff's attorneys argued that along with the boiling cauldron, the defendant left an important piece of evidenceÉ a cookbook with the pages turned to a recipe for Poached Wolf.
Witnesses were called to argue the different points in the heated debate. The students listened intently as the Wolf was called to the stand. Jackson swore in the witness. The Wolf's attorney asked her client to recant the events of the day.
The Wolf's argument was that he was innocently trying to wake Pig up, and climbing down the chimney was the only option due to the lack of response to knocks on the front door.
The next person called to the stand was a character witness against Wolf. Jack Smith, played by student Wilbert Dixon, informed the court of previous run-ins between Wolf, Pig and Pig's two brothers, Larry and Moe.
Smith previously sold house-building supplies to the Pigs. One Pig built his home with sticks, one with straw and the other with bricks.
The members then listened to unspeakable horror of Wolf eating Pig's two brothers. Unfortunately for Pig and his attorneys, the testimony of Smith was not allowed due to the judge ruling it as hearsay.
Next, the jury heard the testimony from the accused, Curly Pig. He testified to the harassment that he suffered from the plaintiff. Wolf would try to lure out Pig to carry out the same sentence he gave his brothers. According to Pig, the cookbook being opened to a recipe for Poached Wolf was unintentional. The pages were flipped forward by steam from the cauldron inevitably.
The jury listened to closing statements by the student attorneys and then adjourned for deliberations. After a few moments, the jury came back stating that the Wolf was responsible for the incident and Pig was exonerated of all charges.
The majority of the children agreed with the jury's verdict.
Although a mock trial, this served as an invaluable visual tool for the students to learn, said Valerie Lewis, second-year teacher at Mock Road Elementary, who helped organized the trial. She said that children learn better if they have a visual lesson to coincide with a lecture.
Even though this was the first trial of its kind at Mock Road Elementary, positive feedback is pointing to an encore trial later this year, said Lewis.
"Everyone, especially the children enjoyed the presentation," said Lewis.
"The mock trial is a great way to introduce law related concepts to elementary school children," said Jackson, a native of Annapolis, Md. "Because of the high degree of student participation, the trial helps the students develop useful knowledge about the law, questioning techniques and critical thinking."
Assistant school principle Judith Honeycutt agreed with Jackson saying that she thought that the children now have a better understanding of the total legal process, she said. They understand all facets of the courtroom and its components such as the juror, the attorney and the judge Lewis appreciated Jackson coming to the school to participate, she said. He guided the teachers and students in the proper procedures of a trial and the intricacies of the legal system.
"I took the role as judge to make sure things ran smoothly. I knew it would be easier to guide things from that position," said Jackson. This was the first time the Marine lawyer had participated in an activity as this.
"It was a great opportunity for our law center to work with a local school in promoting a greater understanding and appreciation the legal system among students," said Jackson.
Honeycutt agreed with Lewis saying that Jackson is a responsible citizen by helping children learn.
After the presentation, Jackson asked if the students were interested in becoming lawyers in the future. Almost every child raised its hands.
Ashley Mckenney, a 9-year-old student, said she looked forward to becoming a lawyer one day. She appreciated the different ways of looking at a courtroom situation and added that there is a strong resemblance in the work of detectives and lawyers.
Other students, such as ten-year-old Joe Stetter, just received additional reinforcement to one day become a lawyer. Stetter's grandfather is a former attorney and the 10-year-old is on track to becoming one himself.
Whatever the results, all participants came away with a better understanding of the legal system and perhaps their future.