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Scouts in GIRL program learn a little about justice

Tuesday, February 22, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: jennifer punch
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DECATUR - When the unanimous verdict of guilty was announced in open court, the "defendant" wailed, "Oh!"

That response, and the soft laughter that filtered through the courtroom when the prosecution's star "witness" accidentally gave her real name were pretty much all that broke the quietness of Macon County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Holder White's courtroom Monday.

About two dozen Girl Scouts spent Presidents Day participating in another session of Making Right Choices, a part of the Growing into Responsible Leaders (GIRL) program sponsored by Girl Scouts of Central Illinois.

Morgan Newberry, an eighth-grader, was the defendant of the day, Adaujria Banner, a sixth-grader, the witness. White invited the Scouts for lunch and a tour of the Macon County Jail prior to setting up the mock trial in her courtroom for them where "Judge" Chloe Tatham, a seventh-grader, presided. Tatham said she liked the opportunity to participate with all that was going on in the courtroom.

Both defense and prosecution teams conferred before making their cases, based upon the information White gave them.

For the prosecution team of Keyahjah Evans and Zharia Cook, both sixth-graders, and Latayjah Roby, a seventh-grader, Evans told the jury their case was proven. And for the defense team, Caderia Reed, Janesha Manson and Kaitlin Karnes, all sixth-graders, Manson suggested there was "no proof" that their client was involved.

Though a mock event, the trial was as real as possible, with an impaneled jury, prosecutors and defenders, judge, bailiff and court reporter. "I like to do this," said White, "to expose young people to the justice system in a positive light."

The judge suggested a trial in which a young woman was the driver of a vehicle which transported another young woman from a store after she'd removed an expensive purse without paying.
"I tried to use something which the girls could identify with," White explained, adding the idea was also to focus on being more a leader than a follower. It's also about how a young person can get caught up in a situation and not even be aware of what's going on, she said.

"You have to do the right thing, and you have to hang around with people who also do the right thing," White cautioned the scouts. "Nothing worth doing is going to be easy."

"Today was just amazing," said Sonja Chargois, membership specialist in the Decatur Service Center. "This is the second year Judge White has done this for us. It's an eye-opening experience for the girls."


The GIRL program is in place in half a dozen Decatur schools, Chargois said, but participants Monday came from schools throughout the community.|421-6976

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