Last Modified: Saturday, February 08, 2014 11:34 AM
OBERLIN — Some Allen Parish students got a feel for the courtroom Friday during a mock trial of the Big Bad Wolf, who was accused of killing one of the Three Little Pigs and of trying to kill the two others by destroying their houses.
The mock trial is part of an annual program held by 33rd Judicial District Court and the Allen Parish District Attorney’s Office, said District Attorney Todd Nesom.
“It’s like a career day and a civics lessons,” he said. “We try to teach the children what happens in the courtroom — what a judge does, what the lawyers do and what the District Attorney’s Office does — so that they learn more about the judicial system and how it works.”
During the two-hour trial students from Kinder and Reeves elementary schools acted as the defendant, witnesses, jurors, judge, defense attorney, prosecutor, bailiff, clerk and court reporter.
Elementary students from Oakdale, Oberlin, Elizabeth and Fairview will participate in upcoming mock trials.
“This is a great way to let them know that we are not bad people and that they don’t have to be afraid of us,” Nesom said. “It’s about building a relationship and trying to keep them on the right track so they don’t become involved in a criminal situation.”
Nesom also hopes the experience will inspire some of the students to become lawyers, judges and police officers.
A similar program is being created for high school students using scenarios from real-life criminal cases, he said.
At issue in the mock trial was whether the Big Bad Wolf was guilty of murdering one of the Three Little Pigs by blowing his house down and attempting to kill the two others.
District Judge Patricia Cole helped preside over the trial with Lily Fontenot, a fourth-grader at Kinder Elementary, acting as judge. Cole led the students through the mock trial, explaining parts of the proceedings to them.
After hearing opening and closing statements and testimony from several witnesses, including police officers, a DNA expert and an expert house builder, the jurors deliberated briefly but were unable to reach a verdict.
“I learned it’s hard to get the point across to reach a verdict,” said Reeves Elementary School fourth-grader Michael Dotson, who served as the jury’s foreman.
Dotson contended the Big Bad Wolf was innocent because one of the police officers lied about the door on the house that was allegedly blown down.
Kinder Elementary third-grader Caroline Comeaux, who played the wolf, said she realized that it is important for the jury to consider all evidence and listen closely to witnesses.
The court proceedings included several courtroom interruptions. Nesom’s cellphone rang twice and the mock bailiff had to remove an unruly person.
“I learned that in court you need to get every information you possibly can and that it is important to call witnesses (to testify),” said Kinder Elementary third-grader Isabel LaBuff, who was the defense attorney.
LaBuff asserted the wolf was innocent, but said it was hard to prove.
Prosecutor Hadley Lemons, a third-grader at Kinder Elementary, also took her role seriously. She was saddened with the jury’s outcome and argued that the wolf was still guilty despite the hung jury.
Juror Jessica Savant, a third-grader at Kinder Elementary, said it was hard to sit and listen to all the witnesses. Savant was among those who thought the wolf was guilty because he blew the pig’s house down and ate him.
Amber Fontenot, a third-grade teacher at Reeves High School, said the mock trial is an extension of the classroom lesson on local, state and national government.
“They get the hands-on of what is really happening in the judicial branch on a level they can understand with the fairy-tale characters,” Fontenot said. “Hopefully they will get a deeper understanding of what happens in the court system by actually going through the process.’’
In all, about 600 students will participate in the mock trial program this year, Nesom said.