See all posts re Judge Richard Cline.
VISTA: Students get a taste of justice
August 03, 2011
By DEBORAH SULLIVAN BRENNAN
North County Times
Twenty-six middle school students got a taste of justice at the Vista Courthouse Tuesday through a program that introduces them to the legal system.
One student defended herself against charges of theft, and was ultimately led away in handcuffs for drug possession. Another student, her alleged accomplice, sat silent on the advice of his attorneys. The accuser was reprimanded by the judge for name-calling on the witness stand.
The gifted and talented students, whom their instructor, Gregg Primeaux, called "future leaders of the community," were role-playing a trial in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Richard Cline, a co-founder of the civics curriculum, "On My Honor."
"I learned a lot about how the court works," said Miranda Colvin, 12, the seventh-grader from Aviara Oaks Middle School who played the defendant. "It was really fun because I got to put on handcuffs."
The program began in 1999 with a fourth-grade field trip to the courts, and expanded into a series of regionwide events, including "Youth in Court Day" and, more recently, the week-long summer symposium for gifted students. The programs are sponsored jointly by the San Diego Superior Court, the North County Bar Association, Cal State San Marcos, and local schools.
Cline said he developed the curriculum to supplement dwindling civics education, and counterbalance what he considers the poor depiction of judicial proceedings on television.
"It teaches students factual information about the (legal) process by participating in an active trial," Cline said. "And hopefully it teaches them respect for the law."
During the summer program, gifted students in grades 5-9 prepare a case with attorneys and judges, investigate case studies using technology labs, present legal arguments, debate complex issues, select jury members, explore rights and responsibilities as citizens, and take a tour of the court facilities.
"We wanted to bring a higher critical thinking opportunity for them during the summer, within the courts," Primeaux said, adding that the program aims to both cultivate legal literacy and inspire future legal professionals.
During the mock trial, a student, Emily, faced theft charges for allegedly stealing $200 of charitable donations from a teacher's desk during lunch hour. Fellow students testified that they suspected her of taking the cash, noting that they saw her in the classroom and watched her buy a new iPod.
However, they acknowledged they never saw her steal the money, and school administrators admitted that while they found the new iPod in her backpack, she told them she earned the money through odd jobs.
Throughout the mock trial, Cline offered judicial guidance on examining the evidence, and at one time reproached a witness, Colleen, for calling Emily a "liar and a loser" on the stand.
A dozen student jurors then weighed the testimony and declared Emily not guilty. In a final twist, however, Cline announced that a court search of Emily's backpack turned up a white, powdery substance found to be methamphetamine, and a student actor playing bailiff escorted her out of court in handcuffs...
[Maura Larkins comment: This seemed to be a real exercise in critical thinking--until that "final twist". Shame on the adults for pulling that parlor trick. The students were given the impression that in a typical case, defendants are wrongly found innocent. Obviously, the jury in the above exercise was right to find the girl innocent. Judge Cline would have done these students a service if he acknowledged that the outcome in the story below is more common in the US justice system. The idea that defendants bring methamphetmine to court in backpacks is silly, bordering on dishonest manipulation of children's minds. Judge Cline seems to want kids to believe that courts make mistakes when they find defendants not guilty.
A more typical situation can be seen in the following case, which, interestingly enough, involved a fifteen-year-old girl. (Perhaps Judge Cline should have included in his lesson an admonition not to make false allegations?) The defense attorney in the following case described our justice system to the innocent young man accused by the fifteen-year-old: "When you go into that courtroom the jury is going to see a big black teenager and you're automatically going to be assumed guilty."]
May 24, 2012
Onetime top Calif. football prospect exonerated after serving 5 years on rape charge
A former high school football star whose dreams of a pro career were shattered by a rape conviction burst into tears Thursday as a judge threw out the charge that sent him to prison for more than five years.
Brian Banks, now 26, had pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of his lawyer after a childhood friend falsely accused him of attacking her on their high school campus.
The district attorney offered Banks a deal -- plead guilty to rape and spend another 18 months in prison, or go to trial and face 41 years to life, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Banks said his defense attorney told him, "'When you go into that courtroom the jury is going to see a big black teenager and you're automatically going to be assumed guilty.' Those are her exact words."
In a strange turn of events, the woman, Wanetta Gibson, friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison.
In an initial meeting with him, she said she had lied; there had been no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record, court records state.
But she refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she feared she would have to return a $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.
During a second meeting that was secretly videotaped, she told Banks, "'I will go through with helping you but it's like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don't want to have to pay it back,"' according to a defense investigator who was at the meeting.
It was uncertain Thursday whether Gibson will have to return the money.
Prosecutors also said they didn't immediately know if she might be prosecuted for making the false accusation when she was 15...
Banks said he had verbally agreed to attend USC on a four-year scholarship when he was arrested.
He still hopes to play professional football and has been working out regularly. His attorney Justin Brooks appealed to NFL teams to give him a chance.
Banks said outside court Thursday that he had lost all hope of proving his innocence until Gibson contacted him.
"It's been a struggle. But I'm unbroken and I'm still here today," the tall, muscular Banks said, tears flowing down his face.
He recalled being shocked and speechless on the day Gibson reached out to him after he had been released from prison, having served five years and two months...
In court, Deputy District Attorney Brentford Ferreira told Superior Court Judge Mark C. Kim that prosecutors agreed the case should be thrown out. Kim dismissed it immediately.
Banks had tried to win release while he was in prison, but Brooks, a law professor and head of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law in San Diego, said he could not have been exonerated without the woman coming forward and recanting her story.
Brooks said it was the first case he had ever taken in which the defendant had already served his time and had been free for a number of years.
Banks remained on probation, however, and was still wearing his electronic monitoring bracelet at Thursday's hearing. His lawyer said the first thing the two planned to do was report to probation officials and have it removed.
"The charges are dismissed now," Brooks said. "It's as if it didn't happen. ... It was the shortest, greatest proceeding I've ever been part of."
Banks had been arrested after Gibson said he met her in a school hallway and urged her to come into an elevator with him. The two had been friends since middle school and were in the habit of making out in a school stairwell, according to court papers.
There were contradictions in Gibson's story, as she told some people the rape happened in the elevator and others that it happened in the stairwell.
A kidnapping enhancement was added to the case because of the allegation Banks had taken her to the stairwell. That enhancement also was thrown out Thursday.