Law and Order - SGS Pilot

by Wendy
The annual 7th grade Mock Trial was held the day before winter break, featuring every 7th grade student in the role of a lawyer or a witness before real judges.  Students experienced a demanding two-week “Law School” intensive learning the steps in a trial, analyzing facts and witness statements, coming up with a theory of the case and working collaboratively with a prosecution or defense team. Assisting in this process were volunteer attorneys (including four parents) and judges. Judge Nicole Gaines-Phelps (Grace Hopper award winner in 2019 for Outstanding Achievement) was an invaluable community partner. She secured two courtrooms at the Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center and recruited this year’s two presiding judges: Nelson Lee (of King County’s Juvenile Division) and Janet Helson (of King County Superior Court), who is also the proud mother of an SGS alum (class of 2015).

This year’s case, State of Washington v. Adrian Vega, included both a criminal charge and a constitutional issue. The defendant – a high school senior (played by Maryam in one courtroom and Rowan in the other) - was charged with a felony hit-and-run. In a pre-trial issue, the defense team made a motion to suppress an incriminating statement made before the defendant was read the Miranda Warning. And what was the verdict of our jury of parent volunteers (who all passed jury selection questioning before hearing the case)? Both juries found the defendant not guilty!

This experience gives every 7th grader a front row seat to our criminal justice system, a chance to “stand and deliver” in a real setting and to envision themselves in real life law school. They also learned how significant the “burden of proof” is for the prosecution side (to lessen the chance that an innocent person will lose their liberty in the real world). After seeing them grasp sophisticated legal concepts, testify confidently on the witness stand, use objections correctly, execute skillful direct and cross examinations and present compelling opening statements and closing arguments, there is no doubt they have what it takes! See the evidence for yourself! Courtroom A, Judge Helson presiding and Courtroom B, Judge Lee presiding.
Located in the Central District, Seattle Girls' School is an independent school for girls and gender nonconforming students in grades 5-8. Our mission is to inspire and develop courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change.