About 80 White Pine Middle School eighth grade students over four class periods recently participated in a Mock Jury Trial with White Pine County Justice Court Judge Stephen Bishop.
Several layers of drama played out in which the fictional plot involved the story of the three little pigs. A program that Bishop says he first encountered while working with Honorable Janet Berry in Reno.
“A few years ago, I was able to obtain the script from her and brought the program here,” Bishop said.
In the trial, the wolf is suing the pig for damages after being boiled by the pig. Bishop explained he has gathered a fair collection of costumes and the kids play the part of the wolf, the pig, lawyers, witness, bailiffs, court clerks, judge and jury.
“The lawyers present their evidence and then, just like in a court case, the jury considers the evidence and makes a decision,” Bishop said.
The students, a diverse group of middle-schoolers, demonstrated newly acquired knowledge of the legal system—and with it, public speaking experience, analytical skills, and self-confidence that could open the door to future achievements.
This was part of the social studies curriculum for the 8th grade middle school students.
“The script was written with the 5th grade in mind,” Bishop said. “But we have had successful trials with classes between as low as 4th grade and as high as 8th grade.”
The script provides several points to allow the jury to analyze the testimony and discuss the evidence, as they come to a verdict. Bishop explained in the White Pine Middle School classes, the juries came back with four judgments for the wolf, though some were close and some took a while to decide. Each class jury’s verdict can vary as each jury weighs and considers the evidence independently.
“I really like the program because it shows a different side of the courts to kids who may have had traumatic experiences with the legal system. I also hope it will spark an interest in the legal profession for some of the kids,” Bishop said.
This program was also designed in an effort to help people get over the innate fear of public speaking and reveal a hidden talent for it. For Bishop, there are many reasons for the program. He said, “It’s also hard for me to pass up an excuse to wear a funny hat.”
Students have much to talk about at the end of the day, after the mock trial and for Bishop, even though he says he has done the trial dozens of times, he is always amazed how well the kids work with performing their roles, and how quick the jurors are to pick up on the evident present in the trial.