Thursday, June 14, 2012

All Rise

Courtesy of Michelle Wyler @ Watertown Public Library

At our Mid-Wisconsin Library system youth services meeting in May, I mentioned that the Watertown Public Library had booked a mock trial of the Fox from Aesop's Fable of The Fox and The Crow. We held the trial today with representatives from the Wisconsin State Public Defenders Office: Jeff de la Rosa, attorney with the Jefferson County office, and Mary Cayan, administrator at the Milwaukee County office, played the roles of District Attorney and Defense Attorney, respectively. Watertown students actors were Camilla Crow, Richard Fox, Homer Hare, the Bailiff, and Aesop himself. I got to be the judge! Thirty audience members were in attendance; they formed two juries that deliberated after we presented the case. One jury found Richard Fox not guilty, while the other group failed to reach consensus, resulting in a hung jury. Afterward, Jeff de la Rosa answered questions from the audience.

What's the real significance of this program? There are State Public Defenders Offices in every county, and all of them have employees who are ready to stage a mock trial at your library. This was the first time they've come to a library rather than a school classroom, and all of us were curious to see what kind of attendance we'd reach since we weren't presenting to a captive audience. Considering that we're only into our second week of Summer Reading and school has not been out for one full week yet, we were very happy with the size and quality of the audience. Also significant is the fact that we marketed the program as best-suited to students entering 4th-8th grades this fall--admittedly a limited population.

We definitely will host another mock trial next summer, as there are several scripts from which to choose. It's a fun, free, easy program that gives students a real feel for what happens in an American courtroom. If you'd like to set up a mock trial at your library, contact Mary Cayan at or 414-227-4764; she'll be happy to provide the contact information for your local Office of the State Public Defender.

Michelle at Watertown Public Library

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