Teen justice: Municipal court holds special session
It gives a "jury of your peers" a whole new meaning.
On Thursday at Dunbar Prep school, teens took on the challenge of serving as the jury, the defense and the prosecution for their fellow students on trial.
It's part of "municipal court week", established by the state legislature.
"It's to recognize, first of all, the work of my staff at Lubbock municipal court," Jorge Hernandez, the presiding judge at Lubbock municipal court said.
Teen court is just one of the events this week, with a goal to create a positive learning experience from students' mistakes.
"There's a lot of statistical basis that teens going before teens can be a really powerful thing," Meryl Benham, the associate judge at Lubbock municipal court said.
The auditorium is not a traditional courtroom, but the proceedings inside were very real. The defendants were sentenced to hours of community service and other punishments for their minor crimes.
This program makes sure students are given a second chance.
If the defendant completes their sentence within 90 days the charge is wiped from their permanent record.
"They're going to come to realize, that their actions have consequences, and they can end up in teen court," Hernandez said. "Or if it's a Class A, Class C or even a felony, they can end up in actual juvenile court."
The students say it was good experience.
"It's very eye-opening," Laney Melgoza, a sophomore at Estacado High School explained. "You get to see what you could do, and how you could change somebody's life."
The municipal court, hopes to expand the program in the near future.