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County holds annual Law Day event Thursday

Escambia County senior Diamonde McCullam admitted she was a little scared while serving on a jury for a drug trial Thursday morning.

McCullam was one of 14 high school seniors from the Atmore area who were taking part in the 40th annual Escambia County Law Day at the county courthouse in Brewton. The senior classes from ECHS, Escambia Academy, Atmore Christian School and Precept Christian School were invited to learn about the legal system, encouraged to register to vote and to serve in juries if they receive a summons.

The jury consisted of Charles Adam Aymond, Alexandria Grace Hinton, Madelynn Boatwright, Josh Fields, Nicolas Laderrius Graves, Madalynn Grimsley, Nathan Jurjevich, Kaylynn Swartzendruber, Drew Koons, Orenthal James Harris Magee, McCullam, Carlos Demetris McNeil Jr., Jennifer Weaver and Elizabeth Annis Wilson.

McCullam was one of 12 — two alternates were dismissed prior to deliberation — jurors that found Stephen Edward Burkett guilty of unlawful possession of marijuana I, unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and carrying a pistol without a permit. Fourteen jurors were preselected prior to trial.

“It was a lot of fun,” McCullam said about her experience.

McCullam said she voted guilty because the evidence of the case pointed to Burkett having possession of the drugs, paraphernalia and pistol.

Assistant District Attorneys Eric Coale and Todd Sternes represented the prosecution, and Kevin McKinley represented Burkett.

After Circuit Judge Bert Rice — who explained each step in a trial process — read the indictment by a grand jury for Burkett, he gave the jury a reminder to think about.

During opening statements, Coale and McKinley laid out the facts of the case.

On Sept. 2, 2015, Burkett was pulled over by Atmore Police Officer Jesse Trawick after the driver appeared to be swerving. The occupants of the vehicle also weren’t wearing seat belts.

APD Officer Jesse Trawick and Escambia County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Walden — who was an APD officer at the time of the arrest — were witnesses for the prosecution. The defense didn’t call any witnesses.

Once closing arguments were made, Rice charged the jury, from which the jury took 9 minutes to decide.

Superintendent John Knott said this is a great experience for students for all of the schools.

“This is quite unique to the state,” Knott said. “With all of the groups coming together, this is just great.”