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Teens get courtroom experience with real cases in Warren County Juvenile Court

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:51 PM EDT
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WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - Being judged by a jury of your peers has taken on a whole new meaning in Warren County Juvenile Court, where teenagers are helping decide real cases.

The judge, jury, attorneys and audience were all teenagers in the juvenile court on Thursday, but the procedures and level of decorum were normal.

And the defendants were real people accused of crimes.

“This is an actual person whose fate I’m basically working with right now,” said youth defense attorney Faith Hampton. “I’m representing a real person, so that was a little nerve-racking for me.”

The proceedings are scripted to teach the teenage volunteers about the legal system.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the jury of teenagers deliberates to determine punishments.

“We just talked about the possible outcomes of what we would have gotten,” said youth juror Aduison Burnham.

One teen who had already pleaded to marijuana possession and paraphernalia possession was facing 15 hours of community service but was given a sentence of taking a marijuana 101 class and writing a letter of apology to his mom.

“In the end, we thought it would be a great opportunity for him to speak with his family about what he knew he did wrong,” Burnham said. “And then, for the marijuana 101 class, we thought it was awesome for him to learn more about what he did and not to do it again.”

The teenage volunteers tell take the experience seriously and are learning more than just legal procedure.

“There isn’t ‘good people’ and ‘bad people’ in the world,” Hampton said. “You know, there’s people who make good and bad choices based on what their environment is.”

Warren County isn’t the only county looking to put teenagers in jury seats. There were representatives from the Clinton County Juvenile Court who were here learning. They say they’re also thinking of implementing a program like this.

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