A Barbour County jury gave Shania Twainstone a second chance earlier this month.
Twainstone, who was charged with possession of crack cocaine, was released by eight-year-old Judge Hayley Klages of Eufaula after a jury of her peers, ranging from age six to 12, failed to reach a verdict, resulting in a hung jury.
The courtroom drama unfolded at Court Day of Wallace Community College's Kidz Kollege, a summer program sponsored by the college's department of corporate and continuing education.
Although the characters in this mock trial were fictitious, Circuit Judge Burt Smithart said the circumstances of the case were real. Smithart, who assisted in the day's activities, said he hoped the exercise would help the children not only learn about the court system, but also learn to choose their friends wisely-lest they get into "Shania's" predicament.
"We wanted to portray a case that would make the kids think," said Smithart. "I've seen a lot of real cases where innocent people got into trouble simply because they were with the wrong group of people. We don't want that to happen to these kids."
The day's defendant, "Shania Twainstone," was played by court reporter Kelli Mills of Union Springs. In the drama, Twainstone was arrested when police received an anonymous tip that she and co-workers Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble would arrive at a specific location in Eufaula with drugs in their possession.
Twainstone maintained she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and with the wrong people-a familiar story to Smithart, who has sat on the bench of the Third Judicial Circuit for five years.
Other children participating in the skit were Caroline McCrory, Christie Teague, Sam Slade and Raymond Lamb, all of Eufaula.
According to Marcia Hudson, community relations assistant at WCC, Kidz Kollege is a new four-week program offered on Fridays this summer. The first session ends June 27. The next session will run Fridays July 11 through Aug. 1. Participants will enjoy a new educational experience each week.
"We wanted to offer something for kids this summer that was affordable and fun," said Hudson. "This is a great opportunity for children to visit Wallace, enjoy great activities and meet new friends."
Sessions include activities in art, music and computers and special activities assisted by local community leaders. Registration deadline for the July session is Tuesday, July 1. Children ages six to 12 are invited to participate. The cost is $15 per week or $50 for all four Fridays.