By Destini Haith and Gabby Wilson, Grafenwoehr Elementary School fifth-grade students (with assistance from Dr. Hunter)
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — On Monday, May 2, fifth-grade students from Grafenwoehr Elementary School traveled to Vilseck Rose Barracks to conduct a mock trial, called People v. Woody.
The Mock Trial was a culmination of events led by Capt. Matthew Wilson and Capt. Benjamin Hewett in recognition of International Law Day.
The trial was based upon the characters from the movie “Toy Story.” Fifth-grade students from Dr. Hunter’s class played the various roles in the trial and students in Mrs. Sobey’s class served on the jury.
Prosecutors Gabby Wilson and Anthony Cazares led the case against Woody. Woody was charged with pushing Buzz Lightyear out of a window because he was jealous that Buzz Lightyear took his place as Andy’s favorite toy.
The witnesses called by the Prosecution were the Soldier, played by Jahvon Hunter, Mrs. Potato Head, played by Mariah Jackson, and Bo Peep, played by Chelsea Lucas. Each witness was sworn in by the court clerk, played by Savannah Bussa.
Woody, played by Nicholas O’Keefe was defended by Defense Attorney, Tyra Potts, who did her best to argue that there was no way Woody could commit such a crime.
The surprising element in the trial was when Buzz Lightyear was called by the defense counsel and Dr. Hunter, dressed as Buzz Lightyear, entered the courtroom and took the stand. He was questioned by Capt Hewett who accused Buzz of trying to protect Woody in his testimony. Under cross examination by Capt. Wilson, Buzz Lightyear stated that Woody was his friend and he wouldn’t deliberately harm him.
Overseeing the Mock Trial was Vivian Velez, who wore a black robe showing that she was the judge. After hearing closing arguments from Gabby Wilson and Tyra Potts, Judge Velez gave final instructions to the jury. The jury was led out of the room by the bailiff, played by Davion Lang.
After a period of deliberation, the bailiff returned the jury to the courtroom. Judge Velez asked the Jury Foreman, played by Alessandra Porres, to read the verdict. The jury found Woody not guilty in the charge of pushing Buzzing Lightyear out the window. Afterwards, the courtroom exploded in applause.
“I like how we had fun, and still learned something important in the process,” said Mariah Jackson.
After the trial, students asked the judge advocates questions and the day ended with a tour of the building. We were able to see the offices of the judge, trial counsel, trial defense counsel, and the jury room.
Before the fifth-graders went to the courthouse, Capt. Wilson and Capt. Hewett went to Dr. Hunter’s classroom to learn about what happens in court. Both judge advocates explained how our government laws used to work and how it works now with a jury system. They brought two mock trials that were done in class. The two mock trials were based on the Salem Witch Trials.
Capt. Wilson is currently a trial defense counsel and practices military justice. Capt. Hewett is an administrative law attorney and is transitioning this summer to become a trial defense counsel at Grafenwoehr.
“It was an absolute pleasure to provide legal training to the Grafenwoehr Elementary fifth grade,” Wilson said. “Their performance at the mock trial demonstrated a mastery of the legal concepts they learned in the classroom.”
Editor’s note: This article was reviewed, coordinated and approved for release by Dr. Bill Hunter, a fifth-grade teacher at Grafenwoehr Elementary School.