High schoolers become jurors

Published 12:28 am Monday, May 7, 2007

By By Adrienne McKenzie
Escambia County High School and Escambia Academy seniors learned the importance of the courtroom Thursday when they took a trip to the Escambia County Courtroom in Brewton for Law Day.
Students were given the opportunity to hear the associate justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, the Honorable Lyn Stuart, speak. Stuart gave a piece of advice to the graduating class of 2007.
"I would suggest that all of you who are registered to vote do so at each and every opportunity you will have," she said.
Stuart attended ECHS and said that just because Atmore is a small town, that does not mean the graduates cannot dream big.
"I didn't know that I wanted to be a lawyer until I was a senior at Auburn," Stuart said. "I never knew that I wanted to be on the Alabama Supreme Court because I didn't think the little girl from Atmore, Ala., could do it."
The seniors got to go to court and become the jury comprised of students from ECHS, EA and Flomaton High School.
Circuit Judge Bert W. Rice oversaw the trial, explaining to the students that it was not a mock trial and it was a real situation with real people involved.
"This is court," Rice said to the jurors. "It is not play court. It is a real defendant with real charges. You are what we call 'fact finders,' it is your responsibility to find the facts."
The graduates heard a case where a Brewton man was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with an open container.
The 12 jurors and two alternate jurors were responsible for listening to all facts given to them by the prosecutor, Steve Billy, and defense attorney, Ernie White.
The jurors listened to all evidence provided and came back with a verdict of not guilty for the DUI and a mistrial on the open container charge.
Rice believes that Law Day is a very important day for the seniors of the area schools.
"This is the 29th time this has happened," he said. "I have practiced law for 30 years so I have seen every one of these. This does more to educate people about the way the jury system works. I've had numerous people who have been on juries who were in this program. This is an exceptional introduction to the legal system because it's a real trial, they can see the court in action."
Law Day is an experience for future lawyers and jurors to grasp an understanding of our court system, Rice said.
"Whether in the future someone goes to court as a plaintiff, defendant, witness or future juror, it means they've been here and seen it. It is a wonderful preparation for them for later in life," he said.
Also at the event, Webb Nall, vice president of sales at the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of Atmore was given a resolution in honor of the company sponsoring Law Day for the past 29 years. Law Day has been in effect throughout the county for 29 years and Pepsi Cola has taken the time to provide refreshments for the seniors each year.

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