Students Get Up Close View of Judicial System

By: Stephen Bowers Email
By: Stephen Bowers Email

Court officials in Sumter County are taking some creative steps to try to stem the drug trade and drug-related crimes.

They're letting students see what the judicial system is all about, and hoping the young won't want to be a part of it.

Fifth graders from Sumter County schools took part in a mock trial at Sumter County District Court in Livingston.

"What we've found, and the statistics even show that, the earlier you get them educated in the seriousness of alcohol and drug use, the better," said Vanessa Fitch, judicial assistant in the Sumter County District Court. "We've found that in our county, the percentage of usage is down some."

Then, a jury was selected and witnesses took the stand to testify for the trial.

Sumter County District Judge Tammy Montgomery presided over the mock trial. The defendant in the trial was a fifth grader named Daniel. He was charged with possession of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana by a minor.

"We have attorneys from in town and out of town who come to participate," said Fitch. "The teachers, some of them, will choose a student from their class to participate and act as co-counsel or even play in the role as judge to maybe help them to choose a profession in life that maybe they'll go on to pursue."

There are two reasons for these mock trials to happen in Livingston. The first reason is to make sure these kids away from the drug scene. The second is to make sure they have an early idea of what it takes to be a responsible citizen.

Drugs appear to be a pretty big problem among young people in Sumter County.

Of the 180 drug-related arrests in the county last year, 76, or 42 percent, were of people under the age of 24.

Before the trial, the approximately 160 students got to see a presentation by Deputy Weaver and his drug dog, Fozzy, from the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Department.


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