Kids take Goldilocks to court

Published 9:40 pm Friday, February 17, 2017

A children’s story was brought to life with courtroom proceedings and legal consequences in a Suffolk elementary school on Friday.

The Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office held a mock trial assembly at Hillpoint Elementary School in the school cafeteria. About 240 students in fourth and fifth grades were in attendance for a legal proceeding based on “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

“It’s a story most children know, but it puts a legal twist on it,” Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff James said. “It relates their prior knowledge to the criminal justice system.”

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James led the students in the presentation on the cafeteria stage. He has done this routine numerous times in the past, but he said this was his largest audience.

“I loved it,” James said. “The kids appeared to be paying attention, and I hope they got some kind of insight as to what the real court is like as opposed to what they see on TV.”

This version of the tale begins with Goldilocks facing charges of breaking and entering, theft and destruction of property. Students took part in the presentation by playing the famous characters, along with the judge, jury and other courtroom roles.

Witnesses were cross-examined by students playing prosecutors and defense attorneys. Crime scene evidence was brought to life, including Goldilocks’ fingerprints on broken chairs and her DNA where porridge was left.

The commonwealth’s attorney summarized his argument in the closing remarks.

“I think you should find her guilty because police found her handprints on broken pieces of chair,” Hillpoint Elementary student Miles Williams said.

The defense attorney then addressed the jury.

“I find Goldilocks innocent because she has a twin, and it could be her twin,” Hillpoint student Brianna Goodman said.

Unfortunately for Goldilocks, her defense lacked substantial evidence. The storybook character was found guilty and sentenced to more than three years in jail for her crimes.

The Hillpoint assembly was the first Goldilocks trial for the commonwealth’s attorney’s office this year, but it’s far from the first ever. The office held 140 speaking engagements last year, including at 10 Suffolk public schools, and every week was a different topic, according to Community Outreach Coordinator Joan Turner.

“I liked it because it was kind of unexpected and different,” fifth-grade Hillpoint Elementary student Rylan Reynolds said.

This particular routine is about understanding the reality of legal proceedings in a fun and interactive way.

“We want to show the children how the court system works in an abbreviated fashion,” James said. “We want to show them that everyone is presumed innocent until found guilty, and that people have to go to court because they have to take responsibility for their actions.”