Court Observation Paper uk
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On April 2 2014, I attended a case in Monroe County Court. The title of the case I observed was the state versus David. The name of the presiding judge was Hon. Gerald Judge and the assistant district prosecutor was Pamela Jones. The defence attorney was Larry Chase. The charges levelled against David were two counts of second degree possession of a weapon, four counts of third-degree weapon possession, one count of third degree attempt of criminal weapon possession and two counts of fourth degree criminal weapon possession. The proceeding observed was a jury trial.
The first thing I observed was the cross examination and direct examination of the last witness of prosecution. The Investigator of the police department by Sammy Mazola was the one testifying concerning his interview with the defendant. He also presented the statement recorded by the defendant about the offenses he was alleged to have committed. The defence counsel asked for a dismissal trial order. There was also a discussion among the attorneys and the judge with regard to the instructions that were to be given to the jury before they started the deliberations.
In my view, the court room was smaller than what I expected. I had to sit next to the family of the defendant since the court room was packed. The prosecutor carried many files in her hands. There was also a cart carrying other forms of evidence in plastics and paper bags.
The presiding judge seemed to have everything under control in his room as evidenced by the efficient forward movement of the proceedings. His speech was clear, concise and meticulous such that everyone in the room could not miss a word he uttered. However, there was a display of some impatience in as far as his facial expressions and comments were concerned when the defence attorney was speaking. During his cross-examination, Mr. Larry was seen to be fumbling. It is understandable for the judge to be frustrated, but I found it inappropriatefor him to display that information with the jury present.
In comparison with the defence attorney, the prosecutor appeared to be very confident to the point of being misinterpreted as being rude. In her presentation, there were no long pauses, shuffling of notes or delay caused by constant reference to notes. Her apparel was executive and fit for the occasion. She answered the questions asked in a very concise and direct manner. She did not look distracted from her work.
I was not impressed by Mr Larry, the defence attorney’s performance. He seemed unsure of himself and disorganized. In his presentation, there was too much fumbling and much time was spent referring to the notes in between questions. His speech was a monotone, delivered in a very low tone to the point of not being audible at times. His appearance was wanting and a distraction. It is right to say that he did not look professional.
However, I found Mr. Larry to be very respectful when cross-examining the police investigator. This was strange to me since most of the time, the defence comes out as rude towards the prosecution. Seated on the same side with Mr Larry was another attorney whose name I never learned since he did not make any contribution during the whole performance. One thing I noted about him was that he kept opening sachets to chew gum, a behaviour I perceived as strange considering we were in the courtroom.
The jury was made up of five women and seven men. It was quite surprising to realize that all the members of the jury were old and of Caucasian origin (Fukurai, Butler, & Krooth, 1993). This was contrasted by the fact that the defendant was aged 32 and also of African America descent. However, all members of the jury appeared interested and very attentive. None of them seemed sleepy, and this was appealing.
The jury stayed in the court room until the testimony of the police investigator was finished, aafter that it was excused. As they were leaving the room, the jury members could be heard laughing and talking loudly. It was interesting, considering the gravity of the matter they were dealing with but also comforting. They appeared to be making the best out of the difficult situation.
It was very pleasant to listen to the testimony by the Rochester police investigator and advises to the defendant concerning his rights. For example, he went in detail to explain to the defendant his Miranda rights. There was a discussion of Rosario material that we had discussed in class. The discussion that followed involved circumstantial evidence, a concept I found quite confusing since we had not discussed it (Prentzas, 2005).
From the court observation, my impression of the system of justice being exciting and thought provoking was reinforced. The most exciting part was the cross-examination that was robust and very involving. I found it very surprising for the defendant to go to trial in spite of having testified to the police concerning the offences. I think the defendant might have come up with the decision of taking chances at trial because he had not been offered any plea bargain that was reasonable.
The case is crucial to public interest because of its gravity. Criminal possession of arms such as guns has become a great menace in the recent past. This has brought an increase in the insecurity that can be said to be a thorn in the flesh. The public needs to realize that being arrested in possession of weapons comes with strict liability. The only defence that is possible to prove is that the weapon is legally held. This is an example of a case in that the burden of proof is placed on the defendant. However, it is good for the public to know that the law recognizes the work done by military personnel and the police who are allowed to carry firearms. In the United States, people are sometimes allowed to carry hidden handguns necessary for self-defence (James, 2004).