Students will be jury at ‘Law Day’

Published 5:47 pm Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A group of high-school seniors will trade the classroom for the courtroom later this week, as they participate in Escambia County’s annual Law Day.

The Law Day activities will be held Thursday and Friday, in the main courtroom of the Escambia County Courthouse in Brewton. The program has been held in the county for 38 straight years, and is unique because it features actual trials in which high-school students serve as the jurors. All seniors attend Law Day, and 12 are selected to serve on the jury each day.

Defendants in the trial cases agree to let the seniors serve as jurors, and agree to abide by the student jury’s decision.

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“We’re fortunate to have this activity in our county,” ECHS principal Dennis Fuqua said. “Our kids really enjoy seeing how the process works, rather than just being told about it. It’s a great program and we hope it continues for a very long time.”

Thursday’s jurors will consist of students from Escambia County High School, Escambia Academy, Flomaton High School, Atmore Christian School and home-school students. Friday’s jurors will be from T.R. Miller High School and W.S. Neal High School.

Each day’s activities will also include a featured speaker. State Sen. Marc Keahey will address the students Thursday at 8:30 a.m., and Tenth Judicial Circuit Judge Robert S. Vance Jr. will speak Friday at the same time.

The trials begin at approximately 9 a.m. each day, and are scheduled to be completed by noon.
District Judge Dave Jordan is scheduled to speak to the non-jury seniors in attendance both days, while the jury is busy deliberating. Jordan said that the program is very beneficial to the students.

“This program is the only one in Alabama that uses actual court cases, rather than just mock cases,” he said. “There is a lot of cooperation to put on an event like this, and it’s a great thing for our county that the different schools, judges, attorneys, and others are able to work together to offer this activity for our kids.”

Jordan said he has seen many students attend Law Day and eventually go on to practice law or work in the judicial system. He also noted that even students who don’t work in the legal profession still get some benefit from Law Day, however.

“Let’s say that they’re five or 10 years after high school and they get a jury summons,” Jordan said. “Now they’ve already seen how the process works and they understand it. It’s also just a good thing to give these young people an up-close look at how our judicial system works in the real world.”

Thursday’s trial is State of Alabama vs. Gary Ray Gibson, who is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Circuit Judge Bert Rice will preside over the trial, and Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey A. White will prosecute. Friday’s trial is State of Alabama vs. LaCarsha Woods, who is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Circuit Judge Bradley E. Byrne will preside, and Assistant District Attorney Todd Stearns will prosecute.