The four courtrooms at the South Division of the Snohomish County District Court in Lynnwood were bustling with activity on Friday.
Prosecuting attorneys were grilling witnesses and defenses lawyers were making impassioned closing arguments. Juries debated the guilt or innocence of criminal defendants.
Normally, the stakes would be high for all of the parties involved, except on this day most of the participants in the trials just happened to be 10- and 11-years- olds, who were getting their first taste of the American legal system.
About 850 fifth-grade students from the Edmonds School District participated in the 29th annual Law Day, an educational program that featured a criminal mock trail, a K-9 demonstration, a Law-oriented Jeopardy contest and traffic safety and DUI presentation.
The mock criminal trial was the first stop for Chase Lake Elementary School students. The case was based on a fictional script written by attorney Paul Hanson. It involved a woman, who was accused of shoplifting. Students were provided a script and portrayed the judges, bailiffs, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, jury and the defendant.
Past juries have both convicted and exonerated the defendant, Hanson said. After a deliberation, the Chase Lake jury declared that the defendant was not guilty.
After the mock criminal trial, students listened to a presentation on traffic safety and the consequences of driving under the influence from law enforcement members from the Snohomish County Target Zero Team. Students and a few of the teachers also had the opportunity to wear a pair of specially designed goggles that simulated the visual impairment that individuals would face if they were under the influence of alcohol. Participants then attempted to walk in a straight line by following a piece of tape on the carpet.
Up next was a K-9 demonstration by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Lynnwood Police and the Washington State Patrol. Students saw two K-9 officers simulated the apprehension of a suspect and the detection of drugs in a package.
Students then participated in a Law Day Jeopardy contest hosted by Washington State Patrol Officers. Topics ranged from car safety questions, bullying scenarios and even a question on who is responsible for picking up dog poop. The answer is the person walking the dog.
The final stop was outside where students were able to tangibly see the consequences of bad choices by looking at a DUI crash car. Students were told that the driver of the car survived and was convicted of driving under the influence and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Law Day supporters and volunteers included South District Court Judges Jeffrey Goodwin, Beth Fraser and Douglas Fair, the staff of South District Court, Lynnwood Police, Edmonds Police, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, the State Bar Association, Target Zero Task Force and other local law enforcement agencies and attorneys.
– By David Pan