The courts have the function of giving the public a chance to present themselves whether to prosecute or defend themselves if any dispute against them rises. It is known to everyone that a court is a place where disputes can be settled while using the right and proper procedures. The court is also the place where a just, fair and unbiased trial can be heard so that it would not cause any disadvantage to either of the party involved in the dispute. The parties are given a chance to represent themselves or to choose to have a legal representative, which is mostly preferred by many.
In the Session Court that I attended, the appearance of the court was similar to other courts that I have seen. The judge sat in the center and in the presence of everyone at the front. The interpreter sat in front of the judge and on the right hand side was the witness or victim box and to the left was where the defendant was sat. A police officer was placed on the left side of the defendant to guard the public and those present in the court. There was a divider between where the public sits with those involved with the legal proceedings.
As the judge entered the room everybody stood with respect. On September 23, 2011 around 9:30 AM a fifty-six year old male dressed in a suit and tie entered the general sessions courtroom in Spartanburg, South Carolina accompanied by a police officer and was sat in the bench for the defendant. In the courtroom there was a judge, a defendant, a defense attorney and a police officer that charged the offender. There were no victims in this case. The court proceeding began by the solicitor reading out what the defendant was charged with and the details of the court process.
The defendant was charged with possession of crack cocaine, and the attorney announced the defendant was pleading to discharge the fact of possession. The judge started the process by asking the defendant some background information about his family, personal drug use, employment and asked for the offender to give his testimony. The defendant started by stating that he was married with four children ages twenty-seven, twenty-nine, thirty and thirty one years old. He explained that he was unemployed but was seeking employment and had previously served in the United States Army.
After the testimony and the process of questions between the judge and the offender, the judged asked the solicitor to read the process of the arrest. The solicitor stated that on February 14, 2011 the defendant was stopped in a routine traffic stop because of a covered license plate. The sheriff had suspicion because the defendant was very nervous and acted as if he was trying to hide something. The sheriff asked the defendant to step out of the car and asked if he could search the car. The defendant gave the officer consent and resulted in the discovery of 2.
74 grams of crack cocaine. The judge stated to the defendant that he could charge him with three years and up to a five-thousand dollar fine for this action. The defendant urged that this was the first time he had used crack cocaine and explained that he hadn’t used since the date of his arrest. The judge asked the defendant if given a drug test right now would he pass or fail. The defendant explained that he would pass the test if it was given. After a few minutes of the judge determining what he should do, he determined the verdict.
The judge accepted the plea of discharging possession of cocaine and the defendant was sentenced to six months supervision (probation), and random drug testing. The second court proceeding was a twenty-one year old male charged with high aggravated assault and battery. Again, the judge started by asking the defendant a series of questions including education, marital status, employment, military experience, and if he had substance abuse problems. The defendant explained that he has graduated high school and was single with no children.
He also explained that he had been working at Panera Bread for two months but had no prior employment history. The defendant said that he had been involved in a substance abuse program called Red and White for his drinking and drug abuse. The judge asked the defendant if he was satisfied with the lawyers work and if he wanted a jury present. After the questions subsided the solicitor read the case to the court. The defendant was eighteen at the time of arrest. He was at a party where he was intoxicated (underage) and was involved with the female victim.
He was accused of pushing and assaulting the female victim, giving her a cut on the left breast and bruises on each of her arms. The defendant plead guilty to the charge and was sentenced to twenty three additional days in jail on top of the thirty-eight he had already served and the admission to an anger management counseling program. During the course of the courtroom procedures every person involved was very polite and addressed each other in the correct ways such as Mr. and Ms.
The offenders addressed the judge as “your honor” and the judge responded in the appropriate ways. The attorney and judge had very formal conversations and there were no outside conversations other than the case at hand. The judge seemed to be very professional and he treated the defendants and victims with respect and let them know in explicit detail all the information he needed to know. The court process was much different than I thought it was going to be. I have watched many programs on television about the courtroom process but it is obviously very much dramatized.
The courtroom was very serious and there were not very many interruptions during the course of the procedures. I could feel the intensiveness of the victims because their future rode in the judges hands. Each of the defendants treated to judge with utmost respect and I could tell they were trying everything they could to create a positive image for themselves to enlighten the judge. I believe that all the court proceedings I observed were fair and I believe the defendants got the sentences they deserved.
I know now that being a judge would be a very hard job, trying to adequately sentence the offenders and having somebody’s future in your hands could be very stressful. Overall, it was a very eye opening experience to actually observe a court in session and learn about all the things that go into the court process. I learned many things one being the judges importance to the courtroom and his or hers knowledge of all of the questions and procedures needed to run a court procedure effectively. I definitely thought the assignment was worthwhile and I will probably go sit into more proceedings in the future.