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Montessori students convict Big Bad Wolf

Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Marilyn Paja shares the gavel with Discovery Montessori student Ben Koontz during the mock trial.  - Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo
Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Marilyn Paja shares the gavel with Discovery Montessori student Ben Koontz during the mock trial.
— image credit: Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo

“We were poor,” the Big Bad Wolf told the jury of his difficult childhood in rural Kitsap County. “We had to live off the land. Have you ever had to sleep in a wolf den? It smells.”

The jurors, ranging in age from 3 to 12, weren’t buying it.

Around 30 students from the Discovery Montessori School in Givens Community Center were participating in a mock trial on Tuesday afternoon in real-life Judge Marilyn Paja’s Kitsap County Superior Courtroom.

The case in question concerned a certain three little pigs and their persistent tormentor.

Seeking to bolster his not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea, Rob Davies, the wolf’s attorney implored the court, “Take a look at this face. Try to understand the pain he’s had to endure. All of these things caused him to go insane. The Big Bad Wolf wasn’t responsible for his actions.”

Paja explained to the students that the State of Washington v. Big Bad Wolf was an opportunity to examine three separate elements — harassment, malicious mischief in the third degree and criminal trespass in the second degree.

“This is how it really works in a courtroom,” Paja said. “It isn’t always clear whether someone is guilty or not, and it’s up to the jury to figure it out. The judge just sits here and lets them decide for themselves.”

Paja was assisted in her duties by student-judge Ben Koontz — ignoring the obvious conflict of interest presented by the fact that Koontz’s mother, Kitsap County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Claire Bradley, was prosecuting the case.

Then again, Koontz’s father, Mark Koontz, was portraying the Big Bad Wolf.

“Isn’t it true it’s just in your nature to be a vicious, violent criminal?” Bradley asked the defendant when it was his turn to testify. “Weren’t you, in fact, born with the name Cecil B. von Wolfenstein, and didn’t you change your name to reflect your true nature?”

“I just know I have an overwhelming desire to eat little piggies,” the Big Bad Wolf answered. “Please help me.”

Karen Nelson, the director of the school, said the students have a six-week session during the summer after having three weeks off in June, and before another three weeks of vacation in August.

“We come here for our community helping curriculum, which we do every third summer,” said Nelson, explaining that the school alternates subjects every three years and spends the other summers teaching the children about other subjects.

The mock courtroom drama, while amusing for the children, offered a more or less accurate representation of legal procedures — including a wily defense attorney trying to play on the sympathies of the jury.

“The Big Bad Wolf — or Mr. von Wolfenstein, if you prefer — has led a hard life,” Davies said. “You may not agree with what he did, but it’s because of the way he was raised.”

In the end, the jury rejected the insanity defense and found the Big Bad Wolf guilty on all counts.

“I think Mr. Wolf needs to spend some time thinking about his actions,” Paja said. “I sentence him to spend two weeks behind bars — in the zoo.”

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