Pig and wolf get day in court
July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:34 PM
"As dozens of Coupeville Elementary students made their way down the hall toward an Island County courtroom last week, an adult walking the opposite way shot them a serious look as if to question their presence. Near the head of the line, 11-year-old Mandi Rubin shot an equally serious one back.We have a case, she said.Sure enough, the kids filed into court, legal briefs and research in hand, prepared to start prosecuting and defending. The case in question was one they knew well from weeks of study: The State of Pigland versus. A. Wolf - in other words, the case of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf.Was the wolf guilty of such crimes as breaking and entering, destruction of private property and eating and attempted eating? Or was he simply acting on instinct, cleaning up shoddy construction in the neighborhood and, in the end, becoming the true victim in a pot of boiling water?Attorney Craig Platt, of the Coupeville-based law firm of Platt and Arndt, first proposed such a mock trial to fifth-grade teacher John Luvera last month's Law Week as a way to teach kids about the legal system and what attorneys do. Before long, Lana Dillard's third- and fourth-grade students joined in taking up the prosecution's side, thus leaving defense to the fifth-graders.One thing led to another, said Platt. It's taken on a life of its own.Platt acted as advisor to the defense team while the firm's intern Winter King, a Yale Law School student, aided the prosecutors. Attorney Mimi Buescher, a pro tem judge in the county, presided over the court.Platt said the trial has been fun and also an excellent teaching tool. He said the professional attorneys have been impressed with the kids' attitudes and poise in the courtroom.I know experienced defense attorneys who aren't as creative, he said. You could teach this in the first-year of law school. It involves every aspect of trial practices.Luvera said the kids have certainly done their homework, which has involved reading every book they could find on the subject, listening closely to testimony and searching the Internet for any evidence that might shift the case in their favor.I think we have a few blossoming attorneys here, he said.During the trial, prosecutors came out swinging with damaging testimony by the third little pig and a powerful opening statement in which the bad part of the wolf's full name always received extra emphasis.But by the close of arguments on the first day, the defense team had the pig backpedaling under a barrage of cross examination. At one point the judge even reprimanded the witness for evading the questions.In the end, the prosecution failed to prove their full case before the judge. The wolf was found guilty only of burglary and was exonerated of the more-serious charge of porkicide for lack of evidence. He was given a 31-day sentence according to state guidelines. The judge denied an appeal.The kids took the verdict in true professional style, though a few vocally grumbled when the verdict was handed down Luvera said.Platt said the exercise was educational for all involved. But as someone who spends most every day in the real world of law, he also saw the trial in a more kid-like way.The whole thing has been a blast, he said."