By Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton, 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 02, 2014
RAF ALCONBURY, United Kingdom -- The courtroom fell silent as the prosecutor confidently stood and faced the jury, adjusting his glasses and bow tie before he spoke.
"Once upon a time, there were three little pigs who lived in the forest," he said, quoting The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf: A Fairy Tale Fantasy for All Ages by Joseph Robinette. "They were nice little pigs and their mother loved them very, very much."
Eli Morris again adjusted his glasses and motioned toward three of his Alconbury Elementary School 4th and 5th grade classmates, each dressed as one of the fairy tale pigs. Together, along with several other students, the children acted out the story as part of the 501st Combat Support Wing's "Law Day" May 1.
Serving as a partnership between the 501st CSW Judge Advocate Office and Alconbury Elementary, Law Day gave students a unique opportunity to experience a mock trial from the opening arguments to the jury's verdict.
"We try to bring a bit of levity to this process," said Dr. Terry Emerson, Alconbury Elementary principal. "Almost everyone knows this nursery rhyme, so the students are able to play a familiar role while studying the legal process."
Emerson, who donned a Barrister wig and black robe, served as the judge during the mock trial. He carefully listened as Morris and his fellow prosecutor, Brenna Kjorness, presented their case against the accused - Benjamin Bradley Wolf, played by Evan Utter.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury," Morris said. "The big bad wolf destroyed the little pigs' houses of hay and sticks, and you should find him guilty, guilty, guilty!"
As the trial progressed, Morris and Kjorness presented their evidence and called the three little pigs as witnesses, while parents and judge advocate office Airmen watched the drama unfold.
"A courtroom is a serious part of the rule of law in American society," said Capt. Ryan Payne, 501st CSW assistant staff judge advocate. "This mock trial helps the students understand that the rule of law is an agreement we accept to not follow a particular person, but a set of laws instead."
Payne said it was crucial to teach children about the legal system early. He said it promotes a deeper respect for the law while laying the foundation for the children to know their rights and navigate society more efficiently later in life.
"Starting in elementary school is important," Emerson agreed. "We hope that through these classes we can help children see the importance of being an informed citizen and understanding that it is their government too."
The students embodied Emerson's words through their portrayal of the characters. As prosecutors sternly attempted to paint the picture of a malicious and violent wolf, the defense portrayed the character as a victim of circumstance - and allergies.
"Well, once upon a time, Ben Brad Wolf had a very bad cold and his allergies were terrible that day, too," said Kaden Traylor, defense attorney for the accused. "He had run out of tissues, so Ben Brad Wolf went over to the first little pig's house to borrow some tissues, or puffs."
Continuing his argument against the prosecution, Traylor explained the wolf's unexpected sneeze caused the first little pig's house of straw to collapse. Upon cross-examination of the straw house owner, Traylor produced his first piece of physical evidence in the trial.
"Little pig, I am showing you Defense Exhibit A - it's some hay," Traylor said. "Could you blow on this hay please?"
The first little pig, played by Cheyanne Storie, effortlessly blew the hay from Traylor's hand. Traylor smiled confidently as he looked at the jury.
"No further questions."
Emerson smiled and said he was happy to see such an impassioned display of civics during what was to be his last mock trial as the Alconbury Elementary principal, before he retires this summer.
"After 42 years with Department of Defense Dependents Schools my wife and I are ready for the next chapter in our lives," Emerson said. "But, I was glad to see one more mock trial - especially with the young Clarence Darrow over there."
He motioned toward Morris, who was preparing to give his closing argument. The black bow tie and serious demeanor seemed to almost mirror the stature of Darrow, one of the most famous American lawyers in the country's history.
"Was it allergies," Morris rhetorically asked the jury. "No! Was it a cold? No way! This wolf, he's big, he's bad and he's guilty, guilty, guilty!"
With such an animated argument from the prosecution, both Emerson and Payne waited confidently for the verdict that would surely send the wolf to prison.
"Not guilty," read the jury's forewoman, as the crowd erupted - some with cheers, others in disbelief.
Payne simply smiled and shook his head.
"I'm a bit shocked by the verdict," he admitted. "But the kids got to see the system in action - a verdict from a jury of their peers."
Not everyone took the decision so well. As the second little pig, played by Katya Watson, stormed out of the courtroom she raised her fist in anger and demanded justice.
"His name screams guilt," she shouted.