After numerous courtroom battles, the 2014 Wewahitchka Teen Court came to a close last week.
As part of Hattie Hunter’s Law Studies class, students at Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School celebrated the end of a successful semester with a pizza party.
During the class, students are involved in teen court where they hosted mock trials for misdemeanors of their peers. Students played roles from court clerk, to bailiff, to attorney as they gained a better understanding of the Florida judicial system.
“It’s a great experience for the students,” said Hunter. “It shows them that there are laws, and if you break them, you will face the consequences.”
Those who went before the teen court were chosen by local officers and had already admitted guilt. It was up to the students to decide on punishment, which ranged from community service, apology letters or essays to reflect on their actions.
Students also worked with County Judge Timothy McFarland who oversaw the mock trials and gave assistance throughout the process. Students were required to dress appropriately for their roles and also learned proper courtroom etiquette.
“This process exposes students to roles that they may undertake later in life, whether it’s as jurors or as a career,” said McFarland.
The judge also presented plaques to two students who went above and beyond during the course of the class.
Juniors Cheslee Williamson and McKenna Waters acted as attorneys for the duration of the class, alternating between defense and prosecution roles.
Their responsibilities as lawyers called for Waters and Williamson to not only do plenty of research on their own time, but also prepare opening and closing statements for each of the cases handled by the class.
Hunter and McFarland found the concept of the two facing off intriguing, since the two are best friends outside the courtroom.
“I didn’t know anything about court but I learned a lot over the year,” said Williamson. “I appreciate the opportunity.”
Waters swore that arguments in the courtroom never translated to their personal life, especially since there were bigger fish to fry. She said at first she struggled with the public speaking aspect of the role, but ultimately, the class helped her overcome her fears.
“It was a cool experience,” said Waters. “It helped me gain an understanding of the court system and public speaking.
“I’d do it again.”
Hunter said she was proud that the juniors and seniors who make up the class took each case seriously and came to each session prepared.
“Once you turn 18, real life hits you,” said Hunter. “Everyone has to be held accountable.”