Cub Scouts explore justice system as mock-trial lawyers, witnesses

Orlando Sentinel - By Amanda Koonce
November 15, 2003


Lake County Judge Donna MillerLake County Judge Donna F. Miller's courtroom was the scene of a different kind of trial this week. It was one conducted by the Cub Scouts of Clermont Pack 133 and was a lesson in the American judicial system.

In the activity designed to help the pack's Webelos -- 9- to 11-year-olds -- earn credit toward citizenship badges, Miller created roles for the judge, attorneys and witnesses to the 'crime.'

'All of the ranks learn character-building,' said the pack's assistant cubmaster and father of the defense attorney, David Orozco.

'For each badge you have to do and learn about specific activities,' he said.

In Miller's scenario, the victim of a beating left his house to confront a classmate who lived nearby.

The victim later was found lying in the street next to a bloody cooking pot.

The classmate was on trial.

Eleven-year-old prosecuting attorney Timothy Howell and defense attorney Leo Orozco, 9, presented the case with the help of Debbie Ader, a certified legal intern with the State Attorney's Office in the county Judicial Center.

Offering testimony under oath was the 'police officer' who discovered the crime, 10-year-old Colt Nungester.

He told the court he found the victim lying in the road with blood on his head and the bloody pot nearby.

He interviewed neighbors and sent the pot to the police lab, where it was found to bear both the victim's blood and his classmate's fingerprints.

'Hopefully when they get older they won't need to know what the inside of a courtroom looks like,' said Cub Scout dad Walter Hamilton.

His son, 7-year-old Alan, is a Bobcat -- a lower level in Scouting than Webelo -- but Hamilton thought it would be worthwhile for him to watch the older kids at work.

And Alan even got to participate.

He played the role of the victim and was adamant that his 'classmate' had committed the crime, though he couldn't remember what happened the night he was hit.

Because only a few of Pack 133's Webelos turned out for the first of two mock trials Miller has agreed to arrange, she had to play the role of jury herself.

She didn't rule as much as explain the factors a real jury would have to consider, such as a neighbor who recognized the defendant's voice arguing with another male; another who saw the victim and a male standing in the street; the defendant's fingerprints on the cooking pot; and an unidentified set of blurred prints as well.

'Sometimes with the juries you don't know what's going to happen,' Miller said.


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Updated 12/11/2003