10 Country: Larry's Goldilocks' Court - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Larry's Goldilocks' Court

May 22, 2007

Tifton --- An innovative judge wants young people to understand our court system and he does it by using a children's story: "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."

"All rise," shouts Bill Tucker's the court's chief bailiff. "This court is now in session with the Honorable Judge Larry Mims will preside."

It sounds and looks like a real court.

 "All the kids seem to enjoy it. We enjoy it because it gives us such a kick to see them going in their roles," says Tift County State Court Judge Larry Mims.

He enjoys stepping aside to let fourth graders run his court so they can learn by doing. Every court position-bailiffs, clerks, court reporters, lawyers, jurors all played by children.

They will try Goldilocks, of the Three Bears story fame, who is charged with having bad manners for eating the bear family's porridge, breaking a chair, and sleeping in someone else's bed.

The prosecutor, played by Ashley Spurlin, has, what seems like, an air tight case.  "Is that little girl sleeping in your bed here today?" asks Ashley.

"Well, that girl over there looks like her," says the witness indicating Goldilocks who sat at the defense table with her lawyer.

Was it a legal slam dunk for the prosecution? Goldilocks identified at the scene of the crime. "Your honor, the bears rest," says Ashley.

Judge Mims, watching the action, saw Goldilocks' attorney take a bold step. "I call Goldilocks," says Victoria Stone who played Goldilocks' defense counsel.

The jury was anxious to see her defend herself after the prosecution's strong case.  "Then, what did you do," asks Victoria.

"I sat in the little chair and it seemed just right, but it broke," said Goldilocks, played by Spencer Hammond.

Would it be easy for a jury of Goldilocks peers to find her guilty after hearing that admission? Twelve jurors would decide.

 "The juror is the most important person, the most important facet of our justice system," says Judge Mims.  Something many adults don't know.

In the jury room, Judge Mims becomes their teacher.  "Take a vote to see if she's guilty or not guilty," suggests the judge, after they elect a foreperson.

The first vote-six guilty and six not guilty. A potential hung jury. More votes would come.

"Why do you feel this way?" asks Judge Mims to one juror. "Her parents are trying to teach her good manners, and she's still forgetting them a little bit," says the juror.

Judge Mims explained that jurors can change their vote if they want to before leaving the room. "Your decision is your decision," says Judge Mims, who has participated in about 200 make-believe cases since he started children's court five years ago.

"It gives substance to what we just see in our textbooks," says Judge Mims.

How close is the substance to a real court?  "Just like what we encourage people to do when they are before us," says Judge Mims.

Before long, the moment of truth would come for Goldilocks. "Have you reached a verdict," asks the judge.

 "No, your honor, we didn't find a verdict," said the jury foreperson.

"Then, I must declare a mistrial," announced the judge. Goldilocks would go free, but her freedom might be short lived.

The prosecutor says she would re-try Goldilocks, but her defense attorney stood by her client saying, "I think she's not guilty."

We'll see.

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