Fourth graders hold ‘mock trial’
Offering everything a true court of law institutes, the fourth grade classes at Sistersville Elementary held a Mock Trial last week in the case of Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Wolfe vs. the State of West Virginia.
The state accused both Hood and Wolfe of unlawfully distributing prescription medications to Hood’s grandmother, who was ill at the time, but did not have a prescription for the drugs she was given to take.
In his opening statement, the State’s attorney explained the case to the jury: Hood was on her way to her grandmother’s house to take her some chicken soup, because the old woman was ill. Along the way, she met Tom Wolfe, who asked her where she was going. Hood explained about her ill grandmother and Wolfe offered to sell her some prescription pills he took from the medicine cabinet at his own home that had been prescribed for his own grandmother by a doctor.
Hood purchased the pills, and dispensed them to her grandmother, who took them and consequently became sicker than she already was. Because distributing a controlled substance is a felony in the State of West Virginia, the State’s Attorney said he intended to prove both Hood and Wolfe guilty of distributing.
The defense attorney for Hood said her client should not be found guilty of the charge because she was only trying to make her grandmother feel better. The defense attorney for Wolfe said his client was not a drug dealer. He said Wolfe was merely helping out Red Riding Hood.
Procedure was followed, witnesses were sworn in and testified, objections were ruled on, and the jury went into deliberation.
The WALS (Wheeling Academy of Law and Science) Foundation Mock Trial project is into it’s seventh year of bringing the program to students in order to provide education about the justice system by making it informative and fun. In the process of the students participation, the projects hopes to show them the negative results of taking drugs, thus striving to make a difference in their lives.
The topic for the Mock Trials this year is substance abuse since the RX drug use/abuse is becoming an epidemic among youngsters.
The “real life” court room scenario allowed students to see the unfortunate circumstances that can occur when the choice is made to abuse drugs, leading right up to a day in court where your future would depend on twelve strangers (jurors).
Students get a first hand overview of how the American Justice system works, right down to the guilty/not guilty verdict.
In a surprising verdict, the first class participating in the Mock Trial at Sistersville Elementary, found Hood guilty as charged, but were unable to come to a unanimous decision where Wolfe was concerned causing the judge (Tyler County Prosecuting Attorney, Luke Furbee), to declare a mistrial.
Barb Knutsen, Executive Director of the WALS Foundation, was present at the trial and said this was the first time she’s known Wolfe to not be found guilty by a jury of his peers during these Mock Trials.
Furbee said he enjoys participating in these type of activities for the school and communities. “I’m very impressed with the way the kids are participating and paying attention. This is a great program and from what I see here today, there may well be some lawyers-in-waiting in this room.”
The Mock Trial program is funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission.