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Homeschoolers, legal office conduct fairytale trial

Members of the mock jury discuss the facts from the case, State of Italia v. Gepetta, and decide on the verdict at the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals April 27. (U.S. AIr Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

Members of the mock jury discuss the facts from the case, State of Italia v. Gepetta, and decide on the verdict at the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals April 27. (U.S. AIr Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

Bolling area homeschoolers pose with Col. Steve Thompson, Air Force appellate judge, after a mock trial at the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals April 27. (U.S. AIr Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

Bolling area homeschoolers pose with Col. Steve Thompson, Air Force appellate judge, after a mock trial at the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals April 27. (U.S. AIr Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

Matthew Borelli, 10, son of Col. Elizabeth B. Borelli, 11th Operations Group commander, announces the verdict at the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals April 27. (U.S. AIr Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

Matthew Borelli, 10, son of Col. Elizabeth B. Borelli, 11th Operations Group commander, announces the verdict at the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals April 27. (U.S. AIr Force photo by Airman 1st Class R. Michael Longoria)

BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- Twelve Bolling area homeschoolers participated in a mock trial held by the 11th Wing Judge Advocate at Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals courtroom here April 27.

The goal of the mock trial, State of Italia v. Gepetta, was to introduce the homeschoolers to the legal process. The children also learned about the military justice appeals processes, other legal jobs in the Air Force and met with several judges.

"The whole experience helped me understand lawyers, courtrooms and the Air Force legal process," said Tisa Lawrence, 9th grade, daughter of Master Sgt. Bruce Lawrence.

Tisa played the state attorney, Signora Mussino, in this fairy-tale trial. She added it wasn't hard for her because she loves acting and has played a lawyer before.

The mock trial was adapted from the 1940 Disney movie Pinocchio where the inventor Gepetto (Gepetta in the trial) creates a wooden boy who turns real after a fairy unexpectedly grants Gepetto's wish.

Mrs. Mussino (Tisa) was trying to prove that Pinocchio (Seth Malcom, 6th grade, son of Capt. James Malcom and Virginia Leach) should remain in state care.

Mrs. Mussino (Tisa) explained this was a case in which an alleged parent neglected to take proper care of a child. She stated that Gepetta (Katherine Allen, 8th grade, daughter of Lt. Col. Dana Allen and Maj. Lynne Allen) was not the legal mother and allowed "bad" things to happen to the boy.

The defense, Mr. Lampwick (Will Skelton, 7th grade, Lt. Col. Robert Skelton and Karen Skelton) argued that Pinocchio (Seth) should stay with Geppetta (Katherine).

Mr. Lampwick (Will) explained that love is what Pinocchio needs most, and the state can't give that to him. The defense also showed that Gepetta (Katherine) took great pain to find Pinocchio (Seth) once he was lost.

After a quick deliberation, the jury decided Pinocchio (Seth) should remain with his mother.

"We decided Pinocchio, should be taken out of state care and given back to Gepetta because she made Pinocchio which meant she was the rightful mother," said the jury foreman (Matthew Borelli, 10, son of Col. Elizabeth B. Borelli, 11th Operations Group commander). "Also, she tried hard to find Pinocchio and Pinocchio tried even harder to find Gepetta. These were signs of love and happiness, which was what we were looking for. We didn't feel Pinocchio would be loved if left in state care."

After the 45-minute trial, the case was pronounced closed by Judge Collodi (Col. Steve Thompson, Air Force appellate judge).

"It was a real pleasure working with those kids," said Colonel Thompson. "Each one of the children who participated in the mock trial did a great job, and it was obvious they had practiced and took the trial seriously. I was impressed by how intelligent, motivated and well prepared they were."

The legal office was also impressed by the children's ability to understand the legal process and feels that the mock trial went well.

"We are very pleased with the participation of the homeschoolers they were motivated and enthusiastic participants," said Cara Johnson, 11th Wing Legal Office. "We are very grateful for all the families who were very generous with their time and energy."

The mock trial was one of several events held in honor of Law Day, which was established in the late 1950s, by the American Bar Association to draw attention to both the principles and practice of law and justice. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day by proclamation in 1958.

Every year the ABA establishes a theme for law day. This year's theme is "Liberty Under Law, Empowering Youth, Ensuring Democracy."

The health and wellness center, along with the legal office, will host a 5K run May 4 at 7:30 a.m. The event will begin at the HAWC parking lot and is open to all members of the Bolling community. Gatorade and fruit will be provided.

For more information, call the legal office at (202) 767-5297.