Laying down the law

Published 8:28 am Monday, May 9, 2005

By By Mary-Allison Lancaster
Law Week ended on Friday afternoon with students from T.R. Miller and Escambia County high schools finding the defendant guilty in a drug case, while Thursday's seniors found the defendant not guilty of burglary charges.
The Law Week program is a nationally recognized program that allows seniors from high schools in Escambia (Ala.) County to sit on a jury and decide the outcome of a defendant's trial. The trials are not mock trials. The cases are real. Earnest White, the president of the Escambia County Barr made the opening remarks both days.
"We welcome you to Law Day 2005," White said. "We are here today to give you a little glimpse of what it's going to be like when you go out into the world."
On May 1, 1961, Law Day was declared by Congress. The program has been in effect in Escambia County for 25 years. Guest speakers arrived in the courtroom, both with local ties to the County.
Thursday morning's guest speaker was Judge Sue Bell Cobb. Cobb is a native of Evergreen who currently sits on the Court of Criminal Appeals. She spoke to students about how important it is to serve on the jury and why it's important to vote.
"Let me tell you who I am," she began. "I'm a little girl from Conecuh County."
Her speech continued with her recounting the days she began the campaign trail at only 26-years-old. At the time, it was uncommon for women to run for a political office.
"A lot of older residents were adverse to voting for a woman," she said. "I beat my opponent two to one…and won another six-year term."
Cobb was running to become elected to full term for District Judge in 1982. She was the only Democrat to win a statewide race in the year 2000. Cobb has heard cases in 40 counties.
"If there is a problem…it's going to be solved inside this courtroom," she said. "Those who have sought for and found ways to serve" will ultimately be the ones happy in life she concluded.
Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Lyn Stuart, an Atmore native, was the guest speaker Friday morning.
"First of all, I bring you greetings from the Alabama Supreme Court," she said.
She addressed the students Friday morning and referred to James Madison, who "had his own idea of what the Constitution should be about."
She continued with Madison's opposition to the Bill of Rights. However, after dealing with the citizens of the United States, he realized that the Bill of Rights was important to the people, and "the people themselves must sanction that this is the government we want."
"Please exercise your right to vote," she told the students. "That is one of your opportunities to participate in government…be a part of the system."
Circuit Judge Joseph B. Brogden presided in Thursday's case, where students from Escambia Academy, W.S. Neal and Flomaton high schools crowded the courtroom. After the end of the program, student jurors found Robert Hazley, who was charged with burglary, not guilty.
During Friday's testimony, Demetrius Barton entered a plea of not guilty. He was charged with possession of marijuana, second degree.
The students listened to testimony by 21st Judicial Drug Task Force agent Mike Lambert and deputy Monte McGougin, Both attorneys presented strong cases, but it was the charges of the law presented by Circuit Judge Bradley E. Byrne that ultimately became the guideline for the guilty charge.
The theme for this year's program was 'We the people in Action-The American Jury.' Students were asked to participate in an essay contest. The winners received a $300 check and a certificate of achievement.
"When you see people bashing lawyers, remember lawyers are the most integral part…of the law," White said.

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