The Case of Gerry Gault: Student Handout 1
Gerry Gault, age 15, is accused of making an obscene call to a neighbor. The police pick up Gerry and take him to the juvenile detention center. His parents are at work. The police do not call to tell them what is happening to their son. His parents are told later that a hearing will be held the next day. They are not told what charges are against Gerry.
The neighbor, Mrs. Cook, complained about the phone call but does not show up for court. Instead, a police officer testifies about what Mrs. Cook said. Gerry blames the call on a friend. He says he did not make the obscene remarks. There are no lawyers present and no record is made of the court testimony.
Juvenile court does not allow juries, so instead a judge hears the case. The judge finds that Gerry is delinquent and orders him to be sent to a state reform school. He can stay there until he is 21 years old. An adult found guilty of the same crime could be sent to county jail for no longer than 60 days.
Adapted from Save Our Streets: A Positive Choices Curriculum, a program of Street Law, Inc. and The Conflict Resolution Education Network, by permission of the publisher.