Judging a Life Lesson

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Students from all over Sumter County came to Livingston to take part in mock trials, a project started by District Judge Tammy Montgomery.

"We are telling children not to use drugs. We are giving them incentives and reasons not to be involved with drugs," Montgomery said.

The students learned the processes involved with a trial, from discovery of evidence by a police dog, to the trial, and sentencing. It's all in an effort to show the children what not to do.

"At an early age, children learn and they emulate," said the judge. "What we are trying to do is to show them prevention techniques. We are trying to let them learn they don't want to emulate everything they see their peers do."

Several students were selected to sit on the jury. Others were assigned as co-counsel for the prosecution or defense, and one student even played the role of a witness.

"I think it has made a tremendous impact. We have been doing this since 1997. Some of the kids that were jurors are now in college and they have come by to see me," said Montgomery.

In a game as simple as rock, paper, scissors, Judge Montgomery demonstrated the outcome of drugs: death, disease, or prison, and she said the program seems to be working.

Judge Montgomery estimates a 60 to 70 percent decrease in juvenile drug cases since the beginning of the program.