DAY IN COURT\Mock jury convicts by dinner time.
Judge Lance Ito would have found the speed of this courtroom drama refreshing.
Unlike the ponderous pace of the O.J. Simpson proceedings, a class of sixth-graders from Simi Valley chose 14 jurors and one alternate Monday for their mock auto theft case in less time than it takes to dissect a frog.
With an 11-year-old presiding, the scripted case was expected to conclude in time for the Katherine Elementary school children to make it home for dinner.
"They see this on television all the time, and they need to learn that it's not glamorous," said Suzanne Williamson, a teacher at Katherine Elementary who escorted 36 sixth-graders through the Ventura County Courthouse for a tour and the mock trial.
"The majority of them understand the process, especially after watching the Simpson trial on television for so long," said Nadia Miller, a parent volunteer who attended the tour with her daughter, Lauren. "This gives them the opportunity to see it first hand."
The mock trial was the grand finale of the nearly three-hour tour, where would-be barristers grilled would-be jurors about a bogus car theft that took place in Ventura.
Every student had a part to play - court reporter, juror, defendant, defense attorney. Draped in a black robe, sixth-grader Stephanie Lamantain played the judge.
"They are the government in learning and will be the government in action," said Mei Hua Peterson, a docent volunteer who gives the tour once a month. "They're the ones the country is going to depend on in the future."
The tour, sponsored by the Ventura County Bar Association, has been open to schools countywide since 1977. More than 5,000 students from sixth to 12th grade take the tour each year.
There are some 50 docents who lead tours Mondays through Thursdays during the school year.
Students learn about the function of the jury system and visit the room where prospective jurors are assembled. They visit the law library and watch a brief video describing the jail.
The students at Katherine Elementary prepared for Monday's field trip by studying courtroom lingo for about a week before the tour.
They became familiar with arraignments, prosecuting attorneys and probations. They learned the difference between superior court and municipal court.
Once they walked through the doors of a courtroom, their knowledge was put to the test as they watched a room full of convicted inmates go through the arraignment process.
Some youngsters watched in awe as the inmates - wearing their prison blues - gave a statement before the judge. Other students were more interested in how the orange courtroom seats folded up and down.
"Boy, this is long," said 11-year-old Jack Stevens, unimpressed by the show.
But once the youngsters hit center stage in a superior courtroom, their full attention was focused on the case they eagerly performed.
"They're old enough to understand everything that goes on here," said Russ Guevin, whose 12-year-old daughter, Lacy, was one of the jurors. "They can get a ticket at their age just for riding their bike in the wrong place. It's good that they learn this now."
Photo (1--SIMI and CONEJO--color in SIMI) Playing the role of a Ventura County judge, Stephanie Lanantain, 11, pays close attention to proceedings in a mock trial Monday. (2--SIMI only--color) Mock juror Ashley Ryan, 11, hears testimony at Monday's mock trial in a Ventura courtroom. Andy Holzman/Special to the Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jan 23, 1996|
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