Today’s focus was Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone is entitled in to a fair and public hearing.” We were lucky to have Marilyn Primovic, an experienced Fulton County district attorney, return again this year to help campers understand elements of a fair and public hearing. A lively discussion this morning covered many important topics, including what a young person should do if arrested.
In the afternoon, the campers went to the Sumter County Courthouse and borrowed a courtroom for a mock trial activity which Ms. Primovic had prepared. Each camper took a role and the trial was conducted as if it were a real hearing. The defendant was a 17-year old who borrowed a car from a friend’s brother which turned out to be stolen. Was he guilty of theft by possession? Witnesses for the prosecution, the owner of the car and the arresting officer, were examined by the assistant district attorney and cross-examined by the defense attorney. The passengers of the car pleaded the fifth amendment and declined to testify. The jury of eight deliberated briefly and returned a verdict of not guilty. Other roles included the bailiff and the judge. All the campers were enthusiastic in their roles and gained a lot through acting out the trial.
Assistant District Attorney Hezekiah shares, “I thought the mock trial was a learning experience, and it taught us a lot, from being on jury duty to being the defendant. I have a feeling that the world would be a better place if people would take jury duty a whole lot more seriously.”
Attorney Meh Sod states, “I feel more educated after doing the mock trial. It is good to experience the trial and know the rights you have.”
Campers returned to Koinonia for recreation and dinner, then enjoyed a bonfire with s’mores as the sun set. During the evening circle time, Mario shared some stories from the Innocence Project. This group works to exonerate wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing and to expose the biases inherent in our justice system. Campers listened to the stories of trials and decisions that the Innocence Project has been successful in getting overturned. Based on what they had learned earlier in the day, they were able to point out elements of the trials that had been unjust and had led to wrongful convictions.
As Ms. Primovic reminded the campers today, soon it will be their responsibility to ensure that the justice system offers a fair hearing to all who are on trial. They are off to a good start in understanding what that means, and to committing themselves to protect this and many other human rights.