Court Observation Report.
The courthouse has a clear signpost and is quite easy to locate as a result. It is old and with an 18th century architectural design. The building stood out and was very different in style, size, and design compared to the others along the street. The court had three separate entrances to the courts for purposes of public viewing. All the entrances are distinct and would maybe go unnoticed if one was not aware that they were in existence.
I decided to go and view the proceedings in the middle level courts because the other two courts were already packed. The security personnel was very strict when entering the court building. They required everyone to pass through metal detectors after being initially having their bags searched by two of the security personnel. The entry into the viewing galleries was through a couple of stair flights. This, I felt, could be impeding disabled people from accessing the facilities.
In the building, there were robing rooms for members of both sexes and interview rooms. The court security guards monitored the main hallway leading to the viewing galleries of each of the courtrooms, and they were very helpful when I asked them about the day’s proceedings in the courts.
They directed me to court 1. The case that was in progress was T. Stephens and B. Stephens, a heavily publicized case. The case was a jury trial, his Honor Judge William Tucker Q.C. was presiding over it. The case involved the murder of an infant who was a few weeks old. The two defendants present in the defendant’s dock were the parents of the late infant. The mother (B. Stephens), accused of neglect and the father (T. Stephens) was accused of murder. They both pleaded not guilty. As it transpired, the trial was on the sixth day, and the prosecution were cross-examining a coroner on the witness stand.
The viewing gallery of the public consisted of seven rows of long benches made of timber, with the total capacity being around forty to fifty people, and during my visit, it was approximately half full. It was located just above the dock and slightly opposite the judge’s bench. The view of the courtroom from the back rows was a little restricted. The seats were very uncomfortable, and this would be a discouragement if one intended to have a long visit to the court. The room felt very enclosed, two windows in the vaulted ceiling provided the only sources of light into the courtroom, and this was obviously insufficient. The courtroom was very old styled, decorated traditionally with dark mahogany wood, and leather seats, red in color. Four large television screens were there, two on either side of the courtroom. The televisions served to show that despite the style of the courtroom looking very conservative, the court was clearly keeping up-to-date with the technological advances in the society.
The judge sat on a wooden chair on the bench, out of the available five. He was wearing a plain black robe with a white collar and like most judges who sit in a court, he was a circuit judge. He appeared to be in his fifties by age and maintained a calm, quiet and composed stature throughout the court proceedings.
The general mood inside the courtroom was tense most probably because of the type of case in question. Given the case involved the murder of an infant and that would lead to a bit of confusion among the audience and even in the jury since it is a bit bizarre to think two parents would contemplate the murder of their infant baby and go through with it. It was coldly silent since the courtroom was nearly empty with a few friends and family of the involved parties of the subject case. The proceedings were very organized with each involved party given ample time to present their arguments without interruption and with silence and order being observed very closely.
To the right of the judge, sat a logger recording the court proceedings. There was a witness standing next to the jury on the right side and was facing the counsel and the dock. The jury was made up of ten people, six men, and four women.. They seemed focused throughout the proceedings with all the members taking notes on what was being discussed. Out of the female members of the jury, two of them appeared to be struggling with the cold and were looking very uncomfortable. By the time, only one of the defendants had been tried by the jury, and I, therefore, felt very lucky to be able to have viewed such proceedings first hand.
Three barristers sat opposite the jury. Each for the prosecution and the two defendants and their own representatives sat behind them. Below the judge’s bench sat a court clerk and the two defendants were each held in an open dock opposite the clerk and the judge, accompanied by a dock officer.
The trial proceedings were quite simple to understand. This was mainly attributable to the fact that it was a jury trial and therefore issues had to be dealt with in such a way so as to make sure that the jury fully understand them. This is because the members of the jury do not necessarily
The attorneys were very audible during their presentation and during the cross-examination they maintained their audibility. They were therefore very easy to understand, and it was easy to keep concentration throughout the proceedings. They were also dressed in a very neat and presentable way.
One of the prosecutors witnesses was less believable because he was fidgeting in his chair and a bit hesitant during the cross-examination. He appeared to be unsure of himself and took unusually long to answer the questions posed to him. He also looked around as if he looking for the audience to see if a specific person was present. Other witnesses seemed really confident of themselves and of their responses to the attorney. They sat up in their chairs and answered to any questions that were directed to them without any form of hesitation whatsoever. Also, answered their questions in an organized and secure manner. This made them to appear a bit more convincing compared to the others.
There were many rules that were in play during the court proceedings, they were mainly made up of the following; designation of civil cases, status or case management conference and standing pretrial orders. The “Professionalism, Gender and Racial fairness” local rule was in use during the case. This rule states that professionalism demands that all persons having contact with the courts be treated dignity, and in a fair and equitable way. It also ensures that the attorneys have the responsibility to set a gender-fair example. The local law also protects the various parties in the court from any racial profiling or discrimination.
The also judge made sure that there was gender balance in the courtroom. The number of the opposite members of gender were fairly balanced, and there was ample time for each. Also, there was the observation of general fairness for every person present in the court. There was no favoritism according to any criteria and it is safe to state that all the persons present in the courtroom during the proceedings experienced fairness at all levels.
The proceedings inside the court can prove to be very boring. If the examination and the attorneys’ presentations are lackluster, the people following the proceedings in the court may get bored and lose focus as time goes on. Further, I found out that when in the court room, one needs to pay close attention to the finest of details since they may bear clues that may be very important in relation to the case. One, therefore, needs to develop very good observational skills if they are to make good attorneys in the future. I also think that the dress code that an attorney decides to put on can come into play in the courtroom since it is what the observers use to create their first impression. Therefore, one has to make sure that they look clean, neat and organized, and this will make the interested view them a tad differently and have a positive attitude towards what they will eventually present.
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