Mississippi County District Court judge Shannon Langston has a little fun with a few students, talking with them in an imaginary court scenario which includes (from left) “prosecuting attorney” Micah Dawkins, “judge” Katelyn Johnson, “defendant” Leville Whitley and “defense attorney” Terrian Handy. Langston, a 1983 BHS graduate, talked to the sixth-graders Nov. 12 about Hammurabi’s Code and its influence on the laws of today.
By DAVID COOKEBlytheville Schools’ PR Dir.
According to the Blytheville Middle School sixth grade teachers, the students needed a little expertise on Hammurabi’s Code. Therefore, they got that kind of insight in the form of Shannon Langston, a former Blytheville High School graduate. The sixth-graders listened to Langston, Mississippi County District Court judge, talk to them about the law and Hammurabi’s Code. She came to the BMS cafeteria on the invitation of close friend Beth McGrain and the other school’s teachers. “Shannon came to roll out our next New Tech project,” stated McGrain, “which will be about the Hammurabi’s Code.” Hammurabi’s Code, a well-preserved Babylonian code of law of ancient Mesopotamia, is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. It consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free, man or woman. “It is the set of laws that all modern day laws are based on,” McGrain continued. “It is also the first example of retribution laws such as ‘an eye for an eye’”. One of the first things Langston told the students was that Hammurabi’s Code represents one of the first times the laws were written down. “Something else I like about Hammurabi’s Code is that back then women were able to own land and also to divorce their husbands,” she added. Nearly half of the code deals with matters of contract, for example establishing the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon. Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, the liability of a builder for a house that collapses or property that is damaged while left in the care of another. A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce and paternity. Langston also touched on the issue of lobbying, the act of attempting to influence the actions, policies or decisions of officials in their daily life, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. She also said that the laws are so important, everything regarding them needs to work together for the general satisfaction. In response to questions from the students, Langston stated that she “loves the courtroom”. McGrain later said that the sixth-graders would create an imaginary city and then create laws for that city.