Teens to be jurors

Published 3:00 am Saturday, April 28, 2012

Two area residents will be putting their fate in the hands of high school seniors next week during their court appearances — and they will have to abide by the decisions of the teens.
Each year Law Week gives local high school students the chance to sit in the jury box and decide the innocence or guilt of someone who has been charged with an offense. Escambia County Bar Association will be observing Law Week by scheduling trials for Thursday, May 3, and Friday, May 4 while the students sit as jury in two seperate cases.
Charles Godwin, a local attorney and chairman of the Law Day program, said the sessions are good lessons for the students involved.
“I have been a part of Law Week for the past 35 years,” Godwin said. “I fully believe in the program.”
Godwin has been chairman of this program for many years, since the death of former chairman, Jim Hart.
“This program gives students a hands on experience with the Judicial system and the privilege of learning the positive  technology of working with the Constitution,” Godwin said.
Godwin said those that appear before the student jury have all been willing to allow the jury to decide their innocence  or guilt. The students do not decide the jail time for anyone convicted as a result of the trial. That is up to the judge at a later date, but the plea that has been worked out dictates the sentence on a guilty verdict, Godwin said.
“All of the students are seniors in high school and many of them are of age to vote,” Godwin said. “Voting is one element of citizenship and serving on the jury is just another right of every citizen. I believe in the system and it works. It gives lawyers the opportunity to volunteer for free some of their time to the program. Usually by the time Law Week gets here, the students’ are ready to get our of the classroom, and they seem to enjoy being in the courtroom setting. It takes two days and in that time the students get the chance to be selected to serve on a jury. It helps to establish a good relationship between students and the judicial system. We try to get them interested in law and how it works. It can make a big impact on some of the students.”
Students scheduled to be in the jury pool May 3 will include those from Flomaton High School, Escambia Academy, Escambia County High School and Atmore Christian School.
The special speaker for Thursday will be the Honorable Lyn Stuart, Associate Justice in the Alabama Supreme Court. She is a former student of the Escambia County School System.
Those students in the jury pool for Friday, May 4, will be T.R. Miller High School and W.S. Neal High School. The special speaker will be the Honorable Sharon Lovelace Blackburn,Chief Justice of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. She is also a former student of the area, having graduated from T.R. Miller High School.
Jurors will be chosen from among seniors attending law day activities.
Refreshments will be provided by Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Atmore for students during breaks in proceedings. The Atmore bottler has been a sponsor for Law Day activities for several year.