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Maple Dale School in Fox Point finds student jurors acquitting Goldilocks in mock trial

Robert Schmidt (left), playing the part of Goldie Locks, the defendant, hopes to be acquited of the charges pursued by the Three Bears.

Robert Schmidt (left), playing the part of Goldie Locks, the defendant, hopes to be acquited of the charges pursued by the Three Bears. Photo By Peter Zuzga

May 14, 2014

Area residents and ursine individuals concerned about break-ins will be further agitated to hear of a verdict delivered in Fox Point Tuesday.

A jury of sixth-graders at Maple Dale School acquitted Goldilocks (spelled Goldie Locks in this case) on a charge of criminal trespass. The jury was hung on a charge of criminal damage to property. Ms. Locks was charged after an incident at the Three Bears' home in a wood in which, both sides acknowledge, Locks consumed porridge and broke Baby Bear's chair.

Social studies teacher Jeff Fishbach's class used the mock trial of the fairy tale girl as a learning exercise on the U.S. justice system. Fishbach held the trial as a tribute of sorts to his father, prominent attorney Nathan Fishbach, who died in 2011. Nathan Fishbach served in the U.S. attorney's office for more than a dozen years, then moved to the firm Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek.

"He always raved about it," Jeff Fishbach said of the mock trial staging his father had done at Nicolet High School with social studies teacher Phyllis Santacroce.

Milwaukee attorney Allan Strauss, who is semi-retired, has been volunteering since October at the school, at 8377 North Port Washington Road, with the mission of teaching the kids basics of the legal system.

"Procedure is really important," Strauss told the court and the rest of the school's sixth-graders in the gallery.

Judges Jordan Arenzon and Brian Blinder — students — sat in robes at a head table, launching with, "All rise. The State of Wisconsin versus Goldie Locks is now in session."

Strauss, who did a number of mock trials at Milwaukee County high schools with the state bar's Project Inquiry program, is a volunteer with the Senior Tax Exchange Program, which builds rapport between schools and seniors, and gives the seniors a small break on the property taxes they pay to Fox Point, Bayside, Glendale or River Hills. The district draws students from those communities.

STEP director Beverly Ugent, a retired school district psychologist, says there are more than a dozen STEP volunteers in the Maple Dale-Indian Hill School District, in various fields.

"It's such an enriching program for our students," said Superintendent and Principal Mary Dean.

Kids learned through the event.

"I had no idea how anything worked in the justice system," said prosecutor Thiago Renger, echoing the sentiments of numerous students said. "It was a really unique experience."

"I learned tons about law and court and real life," said jury foreman Shane Donohue.

"The jury will get suspicious if there are too many objections," said prosecutor Gabe Guralnick, discussing the techniques of his trade.

In the trial, defense attorneys Casey O'Hare and Abraham Ahmed shifted blame onto the Hunter, portrayed by Weston Adamec. It was he, they claimed, who told the "cold, tired, hungry and sick" Locks, portrayed by a wig-wearing Robert Lake Schmidt, she had nothing to fear by going into the house, since the Bears were "nice people."

A strong closing statement from O'Hare, citing Locks' contributions to the community (straight-A student, nursing home volunteer, Ronald McDonald House contributor), as well as contradictory statements from the Bears on the origin of the damaged chair helped the defense.

Reactions to the verdict? "Unexpected," said prosecutor Renger.

"Sometimes court isn't fair and justice isn't served to the right people," said the defense's Ahmed.

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