Thirty rising eighth graders graduated today from the Baltimore City Junior State’s Attorney Program, a new initiative sponsored by the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office to give youngsters a positive introduction to the criminal justice system.
After comments by Deborah Spector, J.D. ‘91, deputy director of Crime Control and Prevention at the city State’s Attorney Office, UB School of Law Dean Ronald Weich and University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby addressed the students and their families and friends gathered in the Learning Commons Town Hall for the ceremony.
Mosby, who praised the students as “intelligent, beautiful and talented people,” said her first experience with the criminal justice system came when she was a young girl, when her 17-year-old cousin was shot and killed in front of her house by a young man, also 17, who mistook him for a drug dealer.
She described the image of her cousin, who wanted to be an architect, lying dead in the street.
“That started my journey to reform the criminal justice system,” Mosby said.
In a March 26 Baltimore Sun story about the Junior State’s Attorney Program, Mosby said, “The goal is to expose [youngsters] to the profession of the criminal justice system, not make them a part of it.”
Three students each from 10 Baltimore middle schools — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harlem Park, Edgecombe Circle, Tench Tilghman, Cherry Hill, Bay Brook, William Pinderhughes, Highlandtown, Collington Square and Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson – were chosen based on essays they submitted describing their interest in the program.
During the six-week program, the students discussed current events; visited courthouses, the police department and the fire department; spoke with judges and attorneys; and learned how the media informs perceptions of crime, Mosby said. The students also met with University of Baltimore advisers and professors and competed in a mock-trial competition.
Mosby encouraged the students to focus on their goals and to be patient and determined.
“It’s not about instant gratification,” she said. “You’re going to have to tough it out to get to where you want to be in life.”
Concluded Mosby to applause: “Pursue your passion. Pursue your God-given passion.”
UB School of Law students Adam Gruzs and Janelle Riddick, both rising 3Ls, helped direct the program, as did the staff of the Law Career Development Office.