High school seniors get peek into local justice system
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
More than 100 high school seniors from three Atmore-area schools got a brief but eye-opening peek into the workings of the local judicial system during the county’s annual Law Day observance, held May 2-3 at the county courthouse in Brewton.
The local students — from Escambia Academy, Escambia County High School and Atmore Christian School — attended the Thursday, May 2, session, which Sam Irby, who serves as president of the Alabama Bar Association and practices law in Fairhope, was the featured speaker. Students from the county’s east end participated the next day, when Alabama Attorney General and Atmore native Steve Marshall was the guest speaker.
Naturally enough, Irby’s address focused on attorneys and the role they play in the judicial process. He told how lawyers must form a bond with the individuals they represent.
“The biggest part of the practice of law, to me, is the relationship with the client,” he said. “That’s one of the most rewarding things about practicing law. Lawyers are there to represent their clients, look out for the client’s interest and the client’s interest only.”
A light moment erupted at the end of Irby’s remarks, when he asked the students how many of them wanted to study law and become lawyers. Not one hand went up, momentarily catching Irby off guard.
“None of you want to be lawyers?” he asked. “Well, how many of you even like lawyers.” The courtroom erupted in laughter when all hands remained down again.
Another highlight of the session came when a video address of U.S. Senator Doug Jones was played, during which Jones praised those in attendance.
“Those of you here today who are high school participants, I applaud your involvement and initiative in learning about our justice system,” the senator said. “You give me a tremendous amount of hope for our future. I hope your efforts inspire others to share your drive and commitment…”
The gathering of teenagers also received a personal nod of approval from Circuit Judge Dave Jordan.
“You are the guests of honor, and I hope this will be a learning experience for you,” the circuit’s senior active judge said. “When we have the west-end students, the students from Atmore, they are always respectful and very courteous … and we appreciate how the students from the Atmore area acquit themselves.”
The interactive experience became a hands-on experience when 14 teens — 7 from ECHS, 6 from EA and 1 from ACS — were selected as jurors to hear and return a binding verdict in an actual drug possession case.
Jordan warned them beforehand of the solemnity and severity of their actions.
“This is not a mock trial or a moot trial; this is a real case,” he said before swearing the panel in. “We want to impress that upon you from the onset. You are the jury, and the jury is the tryer of facts.
The teen jurors eventually found the defendant, Ray Ewing Weaver, guilty on one count of possessing a controlled substance. Evidence showed that sheriff’s deputies discovered two Lortab tablets, a medication for which Weaver did not have a prescription, inside his vehicle after a traffic stop.
ECHS Principal Dennis Fuqua pointed out that local schools are fortunate to have a program that allows students to enhance some of the lessons they learn in class.
“The Law Day experience is a day that some of the lessons learned in the classroom, in government class, are put into real-time application,” Fuqua said. “We are very fortunate to have this opportunity for our students at ECHS. It gives them a peek into the real process of our justice system.”
Members of the 14-member jury were
Mary T. Lancaster
Escambia Co. High
Wesley Justin Johnson
Anna Marie Thomas
Adonis Mikel Williams
Joshua Brice Hadley
Miracle Jabrae George
Danishia Nicole Murray