Mock trial offers lesson
BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
When the jury rendered its verdict Friday, you could say that Hannah Chesner was having a bad day.
The sixth-grader at Tunkhannock Area Middle School had been found guilty of possessing drug paraphernalia
But the jury also had difficulty rendering a unanimous verdict in another charge regarding whether she and two classmates who had been riding the school bus together on March 17 were actually smoking a synthetic marijuana.
The other two co-defendants were simply told by Wyoming County President Judge Russell Shurtleff to “have a nice day.”
Welcome to Law Day at the Wyoming County Courthouse.
Sixth grade students from Tunkhannock Area Middle School had an opportunity to learn first-hand about the American judicial system last Friday as they witnessed a criminal case in process.
Nobody went to jail or juvenile detention. It was all a setup.
The mock trial was held in which students acted as defendants, witnesses and jury members.
Judge Shurtleff presided over the proceedings, with other county, court and police officials also volunteering their time for the program.
This is the twenty-ninth consecutive year the program has been held.
Law Day is conducted by the Wyoming County Bar Association and the middle school’s social studies department to give students an understanding of the legal system.
The mock trials over the years have been based on actual cases from the court files, and involve offenses that are relevant to young people. This year the “charges” involved three students caught on the school bus for allegedly using synthetic marijuana.
Cases involving shoplifting, vandalism and other crimes have been presented in the past.
The trials are conducted as realistically as possible.
Following the questioning of witnesses and presenting of evidence, a student jury deliberated and rendered averdict.
After the trial but before the jury returned, students had an opportunity to ask questions of the judge, attorneys and others.
Many of the questions were about general court and police procedures, and Judge Shurtleff thanked them for their attentiveness.