A Jury of Their Peers

In youth courts, teens run the show, but experts say there's nothing juvenile about this form of justice

To complete her cross-examination, prosecutor Sarah Carr, 16, had one final question for Andrew G., 17, the defendant in a recent case at the youth court in Colonie, N.Y.: "Didn't you know it was wrong?" Andrew nodded shyly, eyes averted. He knew that stealing a $4.97 Star Wars action figure from Wal-Mart was not only a petty crime but also a geeky one in the eyes of his high school peers, some of whom were serving on the jury.

In Colonie's youth court, the jurors and lawyers are adolescents and so are the judge and the bailiff, who swears in witnesses...

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