Students see justice in action

Published 2:03 pm Monday, May 11, 2009

By By Lydia Grimes
Seniors from area high schools were given an eye-opening dose of legal reality on Thursday and Friday.
And for some, that meant listening carefully as jurors to a lengthy trial and then deciding the fate of the defendant.
Seniors from across the county participated in Law Day activities at the Escambia County Courthouse in Brewton.
Juries made up of students heard actual trials involving official prosecutions. The students’ decisions determined the outcome of the cases.
Friday’s case involved a defendant, James Phifer, who was charged with possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Circuit Judge Bert Rice presided over the trial.
Over the next few hours, Stearns, along with attorneys Kylie Jernigan and Jeff White, presented the state’s case against Phifer, while attorney Wade Hartley defended the case.
Rice said later the trial was a little more involved than most of the cases brought before previous senior juries and it took longer to be given to the jury.
According to details presented in court, Phifer was stopped in Flomaton in September 2007 for a traffic offense. Lt. Shawn Golden was the arresting officer. After observing what he thought was suspicious behavior, Golden asked for and was given permission to search the vehicle. In his search, Golden said he found a partial steel wool in the floorboard and a small rock of crack cocaine in the ashtray buried in ashes. Phifer was taken into custody and charged with possession of a controlled substance (crack cocaine) and possession of drug paraphernalia (the steel wool), which officers explained is often used to hold the cocaine while it is being smoked.
After a lengthy deliberation,  Phifer was found not guilty of both crimes.
Roy Brown from T.R. Miller said Law Day was a new experience for him.  “This is really interesting. I have never been to a real trial before,” he said.
Lauren Langford said she enjoyed the morning. “It was a really good experience,” she said. “It’s just regular people. They’re no different than the rest of us.”

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