For my court observation, I took a visit to the Los Angeles Consolidated Superior Court on 300 E. Walnut Street in Pasadena, California. The hearing I sat through was for a criminal matter that involved the judge, the government prosecutor, the defendant, the court clerk, the court reporter and the court interpreter. The court interpreter was needed because the defendant, an aged male, spoke Cantonese. The hearing lasted about forty-five minutes, that began with the judge informing and making sure the defendant clearly understood the felony allegations.
The defendant was accused and charged with 2 accounts of attempted murder and criminal threat. Therefore, if he is convicted by the jury and found guilty, he will be sentenced to serve 19 years and 8 months in state prison. Though, throughout the hearing the judge was having difficulty making points or clarifying certain issues with the defendant.
Many times the judge would ask him questions or make statements about the proceedings, but he would respond by saying that he is not guilty. Also, at one moment he brought up an issue about his incident trying to prove his innocence but the judge quickly stated that it is not the appropriate time to talk about the facts of the case and anything he says in the courtroom could be held against him during the trial.
Once the judge made sure the defendant understood the allegations against him, he was next advised of the right to obtain an attorney. Though, the defendant told the judge that he wishes to represent himself and not be represented by an attorney. The judge then began to notify him of the consequences of representing oneself and how foolish it may be due to the seriousness of the case. Also, the judge made it clear to the defendant, that by representing himself he must understand the rules and information that apply to this type of case because the government prosecutor is well informed.
Therefore, it is not the judge’s responsibility to step in and help him understand what is going on. Also, that it is not a wise decision for him to give up an attorney that will help and inform him on defending his innocence in this particular case. The judge advised him that if he is found guilty, he does not have the ability to say that the person representing him was not effective enough since he wishes to represent himself. Though, the government prosecutor told the judge that it will not be appropriate if later on in the process, near the date of the trial, for the defendant deciding to obtain an attorney.
The judge responded by saying the court will determine the time table for the defendant’s decision on whether or not he will be represented by an attorney. Next the judge told the defendant, since he is in custody and wishes to represent himself he is limited in obtaining witnesses and resources to investigate the case. After all the information given by the judge, the defendant still wished to represent himself. The judge concluded the hearing by establishing the conditions of his release, stating that he is unable to be released on bail and must remain in custody for the safety of the public. Therefore, they would resume again in two days to conclude the hearing and determine the date for trial.
My court experience was very fascinating and interesting because it was my first time going to a courthouse. The atmosphere of the courthouse was immensely tense because the people in there have issues that are affecting their everyday lives. For instance, I entered the courtroom that deals with civil matters and I could notice the nervousness and anxiousness on the faces of people as they wait for their case. Outside the courtroom is dreadful as well because many of the parties are discussing and reviewing with their attorneys with a sense of tension.
Though, it was also breath taking when the court sheriff brought in the defendant in handcuffs and when the judge stated that he is charged with attempted murder, considering I’ve never heard those words or been in that atmosphere besides seeing it on the news or movies. The court observation was amusing because it gives you a different perception in person on the court proceedings rather than just going over them from the book. I also realized how important the court clerk is because they provide a great amount information for the judge. Through, this experience I learned how much preparation goes into the process and how grueling it can be for all parties, especially once trial begins. I enjoyed the experience for the reason that I learned many aspects about the court proceedings and had the opportunity to be in that atmosphere.