Pupils probe porridge pinch

Published 10:52 pm Friday, February 15, 2013

(Matthew A. Ward/Suffolk News-Herald) Suffolk prosecutor Nicole Belote shows students how a court of law works during Nansemond Parkway Elementary School’s career day Friday. Goldilocks was put on trial for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office presentations.

Nansemond Parkway Elementary students dug to the very bottom of the porridge bowl Friday, trying Goldilocks for crimes including property destruction and larceny.

During the school’s annual career day, mock trial presentations by the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorneys Office encouraged students to ponder legal matters, including how a courtroom works, what it means to be found guilty, and exactly what a bailiff does.

“There’s somebody in the courtroom who makes sure everybody behaves in the courtroom and stays really quiet and listens to everything the judge says,” said prosecutor Nicole Belote, coaxing the children to name what the person is called.

Email newsletter signup

“Something that starts with ‘B,’” one boy said, eliciting surprise from Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Ferguson, who sat in the “public gallery.”

Other students answered “police officer” and “security,” before Belote said, “It’s called a ‘bailiff’ — that’s a tough one.”

Belote, who presented mock trials in “five or so” elementary schools last year and says it’s “the favorite part (of her job) aside from being in court,” used the method to run students through the roles of various courtroom participants.

If a student answered correctly, they played that role in the accounting of Goldilocks’ alleged transgressions. Students wore signs to clarify who was who.

The most enthusiastic response came when Belote asked, “Who knows the person that sits in very front of the courtroom and makes sure everybody in the courtroom listens, and decides if the lawyer’s right or the lawyer’s wrong.”

“A judge” they cried, hands shooting up.

Belote also explained the role of jurors, declaring that a panel of 12 would be deciding the fate of Goldilocks.

She explained the crimes Goldilocks would be charged with for allegedly unlawfully entering the three bears’ home, eating their porridge, breaking their chair and the using of their bed without being invited to do so.

She converted one child’s answer of “breaking stuff” to “destruction of property,” and explained how the porridge incident was a clear case of larceny and sneaking into the bears’ home tantamount to burglary.

Ferguson said mock trials allow children to “actually become part of the process, and by doing that, understand how it works.

“They have had to make decisions; they have had to serve as jurors; they have had to be the commonwealth’s attorney; they are playing out each of these participants,” he said.

Some other career day visitors to the school included Suffolk Fire and Rescue, Pepsi and the Chick-fil-A cow.