The College of William & Mary Law School students put on a fractured fairy tale trial of Goldilocks in the McGlothlin Courtroom for a group of kindergarten and first-grade students from Providence Classical School and Walsingham Academy on Friday.
The trial, which the law school hosts annually, aims to teach elementary students about the U.S. justice system using familiar fairy tales. The children and law students act as witnesses and jurors.
“This is where we make lawyers,” said Fred Lederer, chancellor professor of law and director of the Center for Legal and Court Technology who served as the judge for the fairy tale trial, before the trial began.
Lederer gave a short lecture on what happens during a trial, explaining the difference between a criminal and civil case, the role of the judge, and the concept of “reasonable doubt.”
“It’s going to be like television but better because it’s happening here in front of you,” Lederer said.
At the start of the trial, Lederer told the students the prosecuting attorney had to prove Amber Goldilocks went into the Bear family’s house, ate their oatmeal, sat in the chairs and slept in their beds without permission.
The children saw several witnesses — such as Teddy Bear, who lives in the house Goldilocks allegedly broke into; Sydney Kid, a Fairy Tale Police Department scientist who collected forensic evidence from the crime scene; and Raynard Swiper, a witness who happened to see a blonde girl enter the Bear house — for both the prosecution and defense, played by law students Melanie Fradette and Dominick Littman, take the stand.
Providence Classical kindergartner Katie Williams, the only elementary student with an acting role in the trial, played Cubby Bear, who also went by the nickname Baby Bear.
As Baby Bear, Williams told the jury someone ate her oatmeal, broke her chair and was sleeping in her bed when she got back from a walk with her parents Sept. 15.
Unlike many defendants in U.S. criminal cases, Goldilocks decided to take the stand to tell her side of the story.
After the defense rested, Lederer asked the three juries — grouped as students in the jury box, students in the audience and adults in the audience — for a show of hands to vote Goldilocks guilty or not guilty. Despite a majority of the jury members declaring a guilty verdict, Lederer ruled Goldilocks not guilty and sent her home to her family.
“[The students] will get the idea that people have a right to a hearing; the idea that it’s not enough to be accused,” Lederer said.