Court is now in session

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

CHESAPEAKE — There will be some young faces running things at Lawrence County Municipal Court next week.

That’s when the talented and gifted students at Chesapeake Middle School hold court, literally, when they offer two mock trials at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 1.

“I think the students learn so much from this,” Terry Montgomery, TAG teacher at Chesapeake, said. “There’s writing, persuasive speech, interviewing skills and questioning and telling a story.

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“It introduces them to the justice system in our country, the jury trial system and they become familiar with the Ohio Revised Code.”

The students who will be playing defense attorney and prosecutor have already learned proper procedure as far as direct questioning and cross examination.

“And the kids are allowed to make objections,” Montgomery said.

There will be two separate mock trials, each based on fictional murders presented in novels the students have read.

The seventh graders will bring to life “True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi, which tells the story of a 13-year-old girl emigrating to America aboard a ship when there is a mutiny. When the first mate is murdered, Charlotte is accused.

The eighth graders will present the racially charged story of a young African American boy in Mississippi who is accused of brutally murdering a shop owner from “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” by Mildred Taylor.

All the students have to go on are witness statements and charges provided by The Ohio Center for Law Related Education, which has sponsored middle school mock trials since 2002. Students must create their opening and closing arguments, questions and cross examinations.

On average 50 middle schools across the state participate each year, according to Curtis Thompson, mock trial coordinator at the center.

Each spring schools can go to a mock trial showcase at the Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus where usually 34 schools register for that event.

Community members will make up the jury for both Chesapeake trials, including village Mayor Dick Gilpin and former middle school teacher, Leslie Estep.

Relinquishing his bench for the event is Lawrence County Municipal Judge Donald R. Capper, who has allowed the mock trials to use his courtroom for the past six years.

“Hopefully this will give them a little more familiarity with how the system works and some appreciation for it,” Capper said. In his place will be Montgomery who is looking forward to playing jurist for the day.

“I get to hit the gavel. That’s pretty cool.”