TIFTON - Was Goldilocks guilty of bad manners when she entered the Three Bears' house without permission?

Juries composed of fourth and fifth-graders from Charles Spencer, J.T. Reddick, Omega and Matt Wilson schools considered the Goldilocks case last month as part of the First Impressions project, a program designed to make children familiar with the court system.

State Court Judge Larry Mims and bailiffs Lavonia Mathis and Bill Tucker visited the schools during the first week in May to talk about their roles in court, explain the difference between civil and criminal cases, and define the constitutional rights of people accused of crimes.

Later, Mims provided teachers with two mock trial scripts, Goldilocks vs. the Three Bears and People vs. Jimmy, a shoplifting scenario. The students were assigned roles and were ready to go by the next week, when they visited the Tift County Courthouse.

Students from each group played the parts of judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, bailiff and jury. Once back at school, they wrote essays about what they learned.

"At the court, I was the judge," wrote fourth grader Joshua Deshazer. "I had to put on a big robe...I was scared at first, but I got used to it...The alarm went off because I had money in my shoe."

Another student, Megan Hurst, wrote, "My part was also sort of exciting because we got to argue over a little something, which is personally my best subject, when it comes to me and my sisters, that is. I bet it's really hard to agree on someone who did something REALLY BAD."

Mims said many adults are uncomfortable in the courtroom because they only come there on official business. "This gave us an opportunity to let the children know what the court system is all about, to let them see, participate and be a part of what we do every day in court," he said.

"We stressed the jurors' importance, and I hope we may have set up a groundwork for removing that fear so they won't be so reluctant to come in and serve as jurors."

As for Goldilocks, most of her trials ended in hung juries, although Mims said some found her guilty. "In the cases where she was convicted, the judge usually gave her some chore to do. She had to cook dinner for the bears every night for a week or something like that," he said.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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