Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Student learn a lesson in justice first hand
By Jesse Swanson
The Selma Times-Journal
Court was in session Monday night at the Dallas county courthouse but the Jury, defendants, and co-counselors were all teenagers.
Actually it was a training session for Teen Court, a program in partnership between the city and county school systems and the District court where real cases are tried and real verdicts are handed down.
Students from local middle and high schools filled the courtroom as District Attorney Michael Jackson and organizer Doretha Benton explained the operation of their court within the justice system.
The court then held two practice trials that were similar to cases the Teen Court might try in the future.
A jury of teenagers was selected for each case and teens played the roles of defendants, and bailiff.
Teens more experienced in the program were co-counselors to law students from Jones College in Montgomery.
Judge Margaret Hardy presided over the cases and gave the teens advice.
A test was given before the court was adjourned.
The program has many benefits.
It educates the youths about the judicial system and serves as a great deterrent as well as taking some of the lesser cases off of the juvenile court’s caseload. Probation officers don’t have to spend so much time with cases that go through the teen courts so more serious offenders have a better chance at remediation.
Also offenders have the opportunity of having infractions expunged from their records if they abide by the courts rulings.