READ ALOUD Finders Keepers by Will and Nicholas, published by Voyager Books Harcourt Brace & Co. (Winner of the Caldecott Medal).
After reading, ask children to think back to the beginning of the story when the dogs found the bone. Ask them who they think should get the bone.
Explain that if Nap and Winkle were people and had a dispute over who owned something, one might hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit against the other. The one who got sued would hire his own lawyer. The lawyers would present Nap and Winkle’s point of view at a trial, where a jury would decide who owns the bone. A judge would be in charge of the trial to make sure all the legal rules are followed.
Explain that in the United States, trials are the method we use to determine whether someone has done something illegal or improper according to our laws. There are criminal trials and civil trials. When the police arrest someone for committing an illegal act, a criminal trial occurs. The result may be that the person arrested serves a sentence in a prison. The judge who oversees the trial decides what the sentence will be.
When a citizen sues another citizen and no arrests are involved, a civil trial occurs. Nap and Winkle’s trial would be a civil trial. The result may be that the person who is sued must pay an amount of money or give something to the person who filed the lawsuit.
The jury is made up of everyday people who do not know either person in the case. They listen to the evidence – the facts of the case discussed during the trial – and make a decision.
After hearing the evidence, the jury goes into a room alone and deliberates, which means they talk about the case and come to a decision. They go back into the courtroom and announce the decision, then the trial is over.
The jury system ensures that every citizen has a chance to play an important part in the justice process at least once during their lifetime. The jury system helps promote justice, fairness, and equality.