Blaw Court Observation Case Study
Court sessions may be public to everyone but not all the people get the chance to attend the proceedings. My desire has always been to get a chance to attend any of court proceedings in the country. I was glad when the professor gave us a chance to observe a court case as required by the course. Together with my group members, we decided to attend a court proceeding in our home town. This was a chance for me to learn more about the US legal system and its structure especially the ways in which the trials are conducted. My knowledge of the court sessions was primarily from books and movies. So, attending the hearing was going to be a big moment for me and my friends. We would compare the real life experience with what we had learned in class.
The court proceeding was set to start at 2.00PM on 16 May 2017 at the South Courtroom which is located at the 450 Main Street, Hartford, CT. Since none of us was familiar with the case or the court schedule, we decided to find more information. A quick internet search revealed that the criminal case number 316CR1748WT, USA v. Rivera, was a change of Plea Hearing. My friends and I had to prepare early enough to ensure we attended the session on time. By around 1PM, we had already taken our lunch and were at Hartford, CT. At the courthouse, we had to undergo a routine security check. The guards at the gate asked us the reasons for attending this particular trial and we informed them it was part of our law program. We were asked to leave all our electronics at the gate. All our cell phones and other belongings that we had carried with us were kept in the safety box. I believe that the reason phones are not allowed in the courtroom is to avoid disruption of the court proceedings. I could not help noticing, while walking along the building, the cleanliness and the serenity in the area showing how much respect people gave the courts.
When we entered the courtroom, the entire group sat on the first bench because this was our first time and we needed to have an accurate information of all events that were about to take place. The position was also suitable to enable us observe and hear everything that was going to be discussed all through the trial. I was able to notice that there were two separate areas in the courtroom. The right side was for the defendant and his attorney while the left side for the prosecutor. There was a federal prosecutor who represented the case regarding the adjudication of the criminal offense. All people were sitting quietly while others whispered to avoid making any noise. When the judge arrived, all the people present in the court were asked to stand up to show him respect.
It was evident that the only thing that the people were waiting for was the arrival of the judge because immediately he arrived, the court proceedings began. The defendant was asked take an oath where he swore/affirmed that everything that he would say before the court would be the truth and the whole truth and he asked God under the penalties and pains of perjury to help him throughout the process.
The defendant was a twenty-seven year-old known as Mr. Rivera. His highest level of education was 9th grade and his last education was GED. He had also enrolled at the Adult education of Hartford. Mr. Rivera did not have any physical or mental problems, he was not taking any drugs or under the influence of alcohol within the last 48hours meaning he was fully conscious and sober to properly participate on the events that were about to take place in the court. He was also not coerced into saying or doing anything that he was not willing to do or say unless the court demanded for it.
According to the information read by one of the court officers, Mr. Rivera had a choice of either pleading guilty or not guilty. This would legally allow the trial to quickly move to the next step in presuming his innocence to the offense of being in possession of 100g or more of Heroin. The other factors that the defense had to take into consideration include if they decided to plead guilty on this specific day and later encountered another trial, then they would be harshly punished. At the same time, they would be expected to sign a legal confirmation before the judge and the attorneys. This was a conspiracy case whereby the victim was suspected to be in possession of heroin which he was distributing with the intent of controlling the substance.
After the major facts were read, the prosecutor decided to read the case out loud for everyone to hear the reasons that they were they in the courts at this particular day. According to the prosecutor, there was a possible drug transaction that took place in Early September of the year 2016. This was reported by unknown individual whose name was not mentioned to the courts. According to the report, about 34 bags of heroin were traded at 50 Forest St. Apt C3, Hartford. The drugs were found by the police the following day after they acquired a search warrant from the courts. The police had found packed and unpacked heroin in different places in Mr. Rivera’s apartment.
When Mr. Rivera was asked about his plea regarding the accusations that were made by the prosecutor, he pleaded guilty claiming that he had indeed gone to the one-bedroom apartment mentioned to distribute about 100g of heroin. Since the defendant had pleaded guilty, there was no defense needed thus the judge was given a chance to read out the sentencing process. According to the judge, the possible sentences for Mr. Rivera would be a minimum of 5 years in prison or pay a bail of $15, 000. At the same time, he might receive a maximum sentence of 40years of prison or pay a bail of $5 million.
The compelling evidence against the defendant included witness testimonials given by the police. Mr. Rivera voluntarily took part in the distribution and possession of huge amount of drugs, mainly heroin which was among the illegal drugs in the US. The judge asked Mr. Rivera to go to the probation office after 3 days to schedule for a pre-sentence since he had pleaded guilty of the charges. He was, therefore, expected to be at the South courtroom by 17/8/17 for sentencing. The judge’s statement was approved by the attorneys on both sides who agreed that they had understood all the possible sentences. In the end, one of the court officers asked everyone to stand up meaning the court proceedings for the day had ended. The judge walked out into one of the rooms while the federal prosecutors who were representing their clients shook their hands before exiting the courtroom.
It was evident that this particular court proceeding had ended well as expected. I was impressed by the fact that everyone especially the judge gave full concentration on everything that was being discussed and talked about in the court. For instance, when the judge corrected the prosecutor when he confused the dates while presenting the case for the entire audience which showed me that indeed the judges are aware of the choices they make when sentencing an individual. They are not only good listeners, but also make informed decisions based on what they observe, the evidence provided and also the sentences as mentioned by the law.
Based on my observation of the proceedings in the courtroom, despite the fact that the victim decided to plead guilty, it was evident that justice was served. This is because the evidence presented in the courtroom could easily be justified because the large amount of heroin was found in the apartment occupied by Mr. Rivera who agreed that he was not forced to sell the drugs. At the same time, the ways the case was presented in an open manner with the judge correcting any misspelled information shows that all those involved in the case were well informed about every detail.