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Van Nuys | Valley Focus

Kids' Jury Doesn't Let Peter Off the Hook

May 29, 1997|KARIMA A. HAYNES

A mock jury was unable to reach a verdict Wednesday in the attempted murder trial of Peter Pan, the perpetual adolescent accused of throwing Capt. James Hook off a ship and into a crocodile's mouth.

A jury of fourth- through sixth-graders deliberated for 15 minutes before reaching its decision, which sent shock waves through the Kids' Court at Laurence 2000 School.

Kids' Court is an elementary school-level program designed to teach students law, ethics and critical thinking by adapting children's stories into mock trials.

The production was the culmination of a six-month study of the judicial system lead by attorney Lauren Jacobson Wolke, whose parents, Marvin and Lynn Jacobson, founded the private school 43 years ago.

"We give them a hands-on, interactive approach to what goes on in the judicial system," Wolke said. "It's exciting to me to inspire young minds."

To prepare for trial, Wolke said students learned about arbitration, mediation, debate strategies and jury selection and practiced public speaking.

During the hourlong court session, prosecuting attorneys depicted Hook as an honest businessman who operated his ship, the Jolly Roger, as a tourist attraction. He was also described as a philanthropist, giving millions of dollars to charities and research benefiting the disabled.

Defense lawyers, however, depicted Hook as a scheming pirate who amassed his fortune by plundering ships sailing the Caribbean.

In presenting their case, defense lawyers characterized Peter Pan as an advocate for the orphaned and homeless Lost Boys. They also claimed that Peter was acting in self-defense when he pushed Hook overboard after the pirate attempted to stab him.

But prosecutors said Peter was a money-hungry developer who wanted to steal Hook's money merely to build a mansion for himself and the Lost Boys. They claimed he threw the captain overboard to get him out of the way.

When the jury foreman announced the verdict, courtroom spectators--made up of parents, teachers and students--booed. In true courtroom fashion, they demanded a retrial.

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