Trial of Big Bad Wolf ends in hung jury Vicksburg Intermediate School ‘jurors’ deadlocked in mock trial

Published 11:45 am Friday, May 18, 2012

The Big Bad Wolf will have to return to court for a retrial after a jury of his Vicksburg Intermediate School peers failed to reach a verdict in his murder trial Wednesday.

The wolf’s mock trial, held in County Court at the Warren County Courthouse, was the culmination of a unit on the law studied by a group of VIS students under the direction of Margie Heltzel, their Gifted and Talented Enrichment Services teacher, and assisted by Warren County Assistant District Attorney Lane Campbell.

Circuit Judge M. James Chaney presided over the 50-minute trial.

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The Big Bad Wolf, played by 11-year-old Kodie Hill, a VIS fifth-grader, was accused of two counts of murder in the deaths of Ann the Pig and Bob the Pig, and two counts of malicious mischief in the destruction of Ann’s house of straw and Bob’s house of sticks.

“Not guilty,” he said, when Chaney asked him for his plea.

The attorneys and witnesses were played by VIS’ sixth-grade GATES students.

Prosecuting attorneys Lakendra Hubbard, 11, and Kelsey Stewart, 11, called seven witnesses in their attempts to prove the wolf guilty. Defense attorneys Ashley Erves, 12, and Logan Tillman, 12, rebutted with five.

Each witness was sworn in by Deputy Vincent Woods, who asked, “Do you swear to tell the truth according to the fairy tale?”

The jury, made up of fourth- and fifth-graders, deliberated for about 10 minutes before reporting to Chaney that they were deadlocked.

Heather Kindhart, 12, who played Moo the Cow, the prosecution’s expert witness on wolves, said she enjoyed “everything” about the project. “The hardest part was learning what to say,” said Heather, who chose her part because she likes cows.

“If you wanted to be one of the lawyers you had to audition,” said Kelsey. Playing a prosecution lawyer was easier than being a defense lawyer, she said, because “everybody knows the story. Everybody knows how it’s going to end.”

Chaney said he has judged high school mock trial competitions at the state level for at least 15 years but had not worked with younger students.

“I think it’s great that they’ve had a chance to be in a courtroom, to learn a little bit about how the process works and get some experience with public speaking,” Chaney said.

All of the students worked hard on the project, Heltzel told parents and grandparents sitting in the courtroom. “For a second here I forgot they were 11- and 12-year-olds.”

The kids spent a couple of hours a week preparing, she said. “Lane came in once a week and would answer their questions, go over the court system and help them practice,” she said.

Campbell said he enjoyed working with the kids, answering their questions and giving them feedback as they prepared for the trial.

“You all did a great job,” he told them. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of you all, not just the performance here but the preparation you put into it.”

“Some of the issues that came up in the case are some of the same things that come up in criminal court,” Chaney told the students. He got a few laughs from the family members when he added, “I hope you’ll encourage your parents to cheerfully serve on juries when they are called.”