Camp Heights' mock trial part of weeklong activities

By Mason Lerner

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS — Justice was served Friday when campers from Camp Heights conducted a mock trial in the city council chambers.

Earlier in the week, court officials visited the camp to talk to participants about the justice system. The mock trial was an opportunity for the children, ages 5 to 11, to show off what they learned.

Officer Daniel Garcia addressed the children before the trial commenced.

"This is a court, and we expect everyone to behave accordingly," he said.

The courtroom then rose to greet the 7- year-old Honorable Isabella Softy. Softy introduced the charges against 7-year-old Sam Smart, who stood accused of allowing passengers to ride in his car without wearing a seatbelt.

Softy managed the trial with a firm hand that belied her surname. The courtroom was perfectly quiet when she asked the prosecution to call its first witness.

Prosecuting attorney, 7-year-old Conner Beeman, adjusted the tie clipped on his T-shirt before tearing into Smart when he took the stand. Beeman and the rest of the prosecution team aggressively argued that Smart should be held accountable for the passenger he allowed to ride without a seatbelt.

"I think Mr. Smart is guilty," Beeman said during jury deliberations. "It's his fault. He checked on (the passengers), but he did not double check to make sure they had their seatbelts on."

The defense did its best to argue that Smart did everything in his power to ensure all his passengers were strapped in. But it didn't help their client in the end. The jury of his day-camp peers found Smart guilty and levied a $900 fine against him.

"I'm shocked," said Smart, who was so confident he would be acquitted that he spent a good portion of the mock trial yawning and rubbing his eyes.

Judge Softy learned a lot during the proceedings.

"Being a judge isn't that easy," she said. "You have to sit still the whole time."

Garcia said the mock trial did exactly what he hoped it would.

"This is how they learn," he said. "They did a great job. This should teach them to be ready for when they grow up and have to deal with the reality of traffic court. We all make mistakes."

Contact Mason Lerner at or (254) 501-7567.

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