[CUA Office of Public Affairs]

Gold E. Locks Found Guilty

CUA Law School Mock Trial Gives Preschoolers a Taste of the Law

Fifteen wide-eyed, fidgety preschoolers had their first brush with jury duty recently, when The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law put Gold E. Locks on trial for having "terribly bad manners."

According to the charges, the folk tale character entered The Three Bears’ cottage without permission, ate their porridge, climbed in their beds and broke Babe E. Bear's chair. It was up to the 4- and 5-year-old jurors from the CUA Children's Education Center to decide if her actions constituted willful and inconsiderate acts of "bad manners."

CUA law school professor Cassandra Jones Havard, who is visiting from Temple University, staged the mock trial to entertain the children while introducing them to the legal system. It was done purely for fun — but the law students, faculty and staff who participated were serious about following courtroom rules to the letter.

"Objection, your honor," cried Gold E. Locks’ defense attorney, interrupting a prosecutor’s implication that the defendant messed up the Bears' beds. "Everyone knows Pop A. Bear doesn’t make his bed!"

The black-robed judge, played with remarkable solemnity by law school Professor Margaret Barry, was unmoved.

"Overruled. I'm not prepared to take judicial notice that Pop A. Bear never makes his bed," she deadpanned, looking down from the bench over wire-rimed glasses.

Courtroom players included:

The Prosecution: Law librarian Pat Petit and his co-council Koko, a taciturn stuffed gorilla dressed in a teal-green blazer and reading spectacles. Petit begged the court’s indulgence — in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act — when asking for permission to feed Koko a banana during the proceedings. "Koko has low blood sugar and will need a snack," Petit explained.

The Defense: Professor Louis Barracato, whom the judge had to chastise for trying to bribe the jurors with candy. His case hinged on the contention that Mom A. Bear’s porridge smelled far too good for his client to resist.

The Witnesses: An assortment of law school students and faculty, including Professor Harvey L. Zuckman as Pop A. Bear; student Letitia Byers as Mom A. Bear; Professor David Lipton as Gold E. Locks’ father, Long Gone Locks, and student Michael Cox as Babe E. Bear. Cox elicited more than a few giggles from jurors with waves of his furry "paws" — a pair of U.S. Air Force issued fur-covered mittens he acquired 25 years ago for riding his motorcycle in Alaska.

The Evidence: Two plastic bowls, which once held the porridge Gold E. allegedly ate without permission during an ill-mannered rampage through the Three Bears’ cottage, "which must be located down in Rock Creek Park," one jurist noted dryly.

The Bailiff: Student Kate Gorney, who kept order in the courtroom by sweet-talking one wandering juror into sitting down in the bailiff’s black leather chair.

The children alternated between typical preschooler behavior — yawning, whispering, giggling, and the occasional wiping of a nose on a sleeve — and sitting on the edge of their seats when the attorneys got on an argumentative roll.

Preschooler Alex Johnson had never been in a courtroom before, let alone served as a jury foreman. But he didn’t hesitate or mince words when delivering his verdict.

"I think Gold E. Locks is GUILTY!" the 5-year-old said decisively, his words sending a roar of laughter and mock outrage throughout the Columbus School of Law’s Walter A. Slowinski Courtroom.

Defense attorney Barracato demanded a count of jurors, 10 of whom agreed Gold E. Locks was, indeed, terribly guilty of bad manners. But Judge Barry overruled Barracato’s insistence that the trial end with a "hung jury," because the vote wasn’t unanimous.

Instead, she dismissed the junior jurors to go have pizza for lunch.

"I thank you for performing your civic duty," she said.

 

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Revised: March 23, 1999

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Office of Public Affairs.