A class of Lincoln Charter School students had their day in court Wednesday.
The students stepped into Lincoln Countyâ€™s courtroom and took their places for their criminal justice mock trial.
Although the class has been taught at the school for years, this was the first time students could work within a real courtroom.
â€œIt looks different than I thought it would be,â€ said Monica Parker, who played a witness in the trial. â€œItâ€™s smaller than I thought it would be.â€
Two judges took their places at the desk. One picked up the gavel with a grin, but never had a chance to bang it down.
â€œNo,â€ said Carolyn Prunier, their teacher, who played a bailiff.
Three lawyers sat at each desk facing the witness stand. Students in the jury box slouched and giggled waiting for the trial to begin. But the case they were dealing with was a very serious matter.
The state of New York was pressing charges against a man for endangering the well-being of his child.
Both the prosecution and defense had three witnesses. The students had reviewed their parts before coming to trial.
â€œIâ€™m so proud of them,â€ said Prunier. â€œTheyâ€™re going off the cuff. Theyâ€™re doing good.â€
Prunier had organized mock trials while working as a high school teacher in New York.
She was proud of how well the sixth and eighth grade students were performing with high school level work.
Prunier worked as a bailiff swearing witnesses in. She also helped students pronounce words such as â€œmisdemeanorâ€ and â€œpenalâ€ and whispered advice.
â€œDonâ€™t look at me, look at them,â€ she told a lawyer. â€œYou need to talk to the jury.â€
She also made sure that order was kept in the courtroom.
â€œThe witnesses need to get out of the lawyersâ€™ chairs,â€ Prunier said.
A lawyer for the prosecution spent much of her time jumping out of her seat, hitting the table with her hands and saying â€œobjection.â€
Judges would look hesitantly at Prunier before either sustaining or overruling.
Lauren McClure, an eighth-grader, enjoyed her role as a lawyer and is considering it as a career.
â€œIt felt good because you know you have a lot of power to stand up and object to things the lawyer said,â€ said Lauren.
The case was not cut-and-dried. It involved alcoholism, broken ovens and babies left unattended.
The jury, however, only took a few minutes deliberating before they came to a verdict.
The campus principal, Machado, was brought on board to break a tie.
The defendant was found guilty by the majority of the jury.
â€œMr. Machado! Youâ€™re a traitor!â€ said one of the students.
by Sarah Grano