Every third grade student in Sumter County filed into the Sumter County Courthouse in Livingston to take part in the guns and drugs are out mock trial. These mock trials have been going on for 16 years, and District Judge Tammy Montgomery tells us she has seen the number of children in court drop since the mock trials began.
Montgomery says, "There are about 3500 children in this county, and what I am attempting to do with this mock trial is to get the percentage lower than 5 percent. Right now, we're at less than 10 percent of children that are involved with juvenile court, but I'm an optimist, and I want to get below 5 percent."
The mock trial also lets students see what types of occupations are available in the judicial and law enforcement fields.
"It's to give them insight into the court proceedings," Montgomery explains. "They haven't taken civics yet, but it is an attempt to get them to understand what they're civic duties will become. It is also an attempt for them to see different careers."
The mock trials have been effective for the past decade and a half because the trial itself is interactive and allows each student to pass a verdict in the case.
"We want the children today to have that right and for them to understand, you're an American citizen, these are your rights: to come to court and also to serve as a juror. We'll allow each school, we'll poll them afterward to see what they think whether the person is guilty of not, not just our jurors," Montgomery says.
Students from Sumter County Schools and Sumter Academy took part in the mock trial.