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Peer review: Youth Court allows teens to decide punishment

Seventeen-year-old Kaizad Irani, of Latham, said he has been with the program since ninth grade and took an interest because he knew he wanted to pursue a career in law.

"I ended up going to the Town of Colonie [asking what I could do]," he said, "and they referred me to Youth Court."

Irani said he was anxious to get through the training period so that he could get in the courtroom, and that his favorite role was defense.

"As defense, you have to present the case to six jurors, and the jurors are actually members of our community," said Irani, who said that he enjoys, "letting the kids know that the [offender] -- he's just a youth like us who made a mistake."

Irani said he also enjoys the teamwork that is involved in Youth Court.

"We all work together to make sure that the whole court process is run smoothly," he said.

Irani said his favorite Youth Court case is one that he was not personally involved with, though "no case can top it."

The case, he said, involved an offender, who, during an anthrax scare, filled balloons with baking powder as a prank, triggering a major police investigation. The offender, he said, was sentenced to the most community service Youth Court has ever seen. Now, Irani said, he has seen that the offender has come full circle, and teaches others in Youth Court about the program.

Irani plans to attend American University, in Washington, D.C., this fall, majoring in Communications of Law, Economics and Government (CLEG), but he leaves behind him many memories of Youth Court, and advice for those not yet involved.

"If you have an interest in law, or you want to find out what it could be, this program is going to give you the chance to see the insides of what makes our legal system work," he said. "Being at such a young age, you should really grab this opportunity because it will help you in the future."

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