First Teen Court Case Concerns Petty Theft



Jennifer Laredo and Daniel Espinosa

The very first Teen Court, in which students get to be part of the jury of teen offenders who have committed crimes, was held on September 29, 2016 with supervision of Mr. Cawood.

The trial began when the defendant walked through the door and sat down, with her grandmother sitting across from her. The individual was charged of petty theft, she went with her friends to a store located in Lakewood Mall and shoplifted items and placed them in a black bag; the total of all items resulted to $120. She stated that it was only for fun and the crime was not intended to happen at the time until they went into the store.

After hearing her side of the story, students from the jury asked questions to the individual and her guardian as they determine whether she was guilty or not, questions flew one after the other non-stop.

Students that were on the jury were required to first participate in a mock trial. The mock trial was for first time jury participants to experience and know what questions are necessary to gather important evidence. This was to show students what evidence is needed in order to support the idea of the individual being non-guilty or guilty.

The jury then discussed the issue in the other room and when they came back to the court, they concluded that she was guilty for taking the property.

“I think it helps people whenever they come to teen court because it is an opportunity for them to better themselves and their lives and I get to learn from their experiences,” said Natalie Muratalla junior, jury participant.

The individual was sentenced to twenty five hours of community service, counseling, therapy, angermanagement, staying away from friends involved in the crime, an apology letter to guardian and the store, a mentor other than her grandmother, and probation for six months. When all requirements are meet, the offender have the right to take the crime off their records.

“The case was pretty tough because she has a lot of anger built inside her and I understand her family situations. The outcome, I was happy about it because she did get time for the crime,” said Muratalla.

“I think it affected her, because it made her share about her past with people she doesn’t know and I think that’s very hard for all of us to do. I mean, no one wants to go to a room of strangers and talk about things that have happened to them. She did that to maybe try to explain not as an excuse but maybe some of the reasons why this happened. It serves as an example to all of our classmates right? Because none of us are perfect and any of us could be sitting in that seat,” said Judge Joel Wallenstein.

The first case was successful and the Teen Court committee looks forward to the future cases.