This Project's A Trial

THE EDUCATION BEAT

April 11, 1995|By Mike Bowler

Third-graders at Baltimore's Mount Royal Elementary School could give the folks running the O. J. Simpson trial a few lessons.

A mock trial staged by the students at the Bolton Hill school Friday morning lasted 29 minutes, from opening statements to the jury's verdict in favor of "John Doe," who had sued the newspaper "USA Tonight" for invasion of privacy.

Based on a real incident -- a newspaper's revelation that the late tennis star Arthur Ashe had contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion -- the Mount Royal trial got quickly to essentials. Asked by a lawyer for the plaintiff if she felt a newspaper had a "right to ruin someone's life and the lives of their family," Teyrra Yancey-Isler, playing the USA Tonight publisher, answered matter-of-factly, "Yes."

Everything about the trial was pretend except the deputies' uniforms, provided by the Baltimore City sheriff, and the judge, Keith E. Mathews, of Baltimore District Court, who commented after the proceedings: "This is the most enjoyable trial I've had all year."

Principal Frank J. Whorley said the students had chosen their own theme for the trial. The purpose of the exercise, he said, was to teach students about courtroom procedures and the workings of the law.

Michele Towson, a lawyer and parent volunteer at Mount Royal, coordinated the trial.

Noting that the jury had awarded the plaintiff $10 million, Ms. Towson congratulated him on his "new-found wealth. We hope he'll share it with his mother."

Maxwell Towson, her third-grader, played the victorious John Doe.

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