Innocent until proven guilty

Sixth graders hold mock trials in Courthouse

Matt Lichterman (left) and Kelvin Kepler discuss as judges of a case

Sixth-grade shoes stomped the ground in anticipation as they waited for the verdict to be handed down.

“Brad Stevens, you have been found guilty.”

In a shocking turn of events, “Brad” was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and restitution to pay all medical bills.

Dramatic reveals and turn of events were the theme of Valerie Conley’s annual sixth grade trip to the Grandville’s 59th District Court. Every year, Grandville students act out a mock court scenario based on a hypothetical situation.

An attentive jury observed the information presented by the prosecutor

Quick Thinking

Students from Grand View Elementary had the chance to think on their feet and dive deep into the checks and balances of the judicial system by playing either a witness, a juror, a prosecutor, a defendant or a judge.

“We can prepare (in the classroom), but we can’t practice,” Conley said. “This is an activity that really makes the kids think.”

In collaboration with the City of Grandville, parents and community members had the chance to observe as students acted out their scripts.

For Conley, this year’s field trip is especially meaningful, as she is retiring this year.

“This is my last time organizing this activity,” Conley said. “It means a lot to me after all these years and I am excited to say that this year has been a success. We had a lot of fun.”

Gavin Lapham makes notes on his next move as a lawyer

Behind the Scenes

Being a juror was an eye-opening experience for many students in the courtroom. “Some people changed their minds after discussing things in the jury room,” Tanner Petersen said.

Damien Heys was impressed with the way his fellow classmates handled the verdict process. “People listened to what I had to say in the jury room,” he said.

As far as those on the courtroom floor went, witnesses faced a little more stage fright and confusion because of the impromptu nature of the exercise.

“It was confusing when being cross-examined,” Olivia Prindle said. “Lawyers could have objected but they didn’t, and I didn’t know how to answer sometimes.”

Because the trial was not rehearsed, there were challenges.

“You have to think on your feet, and the final closing statement was hard,” Ryder Karriem said.

Though next year’s mock court experience will be missing Conley, she hopes it will continue to be a student favorite, she said. “Students love dressing up and getting into character,” she said.

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A Bulldog’s legacy

Daniel Ferguson (left) and Cam Breuker make a game plan
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit. Read Hannah's full bio.

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