MJ601 Survey of Criminal Justice
Lesson 4: Courts in America
Activity 4: Courtroom and Observation Paper (100 points)
This Activity requires that you observe proceedings in a courtroom. To successfully complete this activity, you must fulfill the following criteria. Your Activity responses should be both grammatically and mechanically correct, and formatted in the same fashion as the Activity itself. If there is a Part A, your response should identify a Part A, etc. In addition, you must appropriately cite all resources used in your response and document in a bibliography using APA style. (100 points) (A 4-page response is required.)
1.After completing your Required Readings, contact the clerk of court’s office as listed in the government section of the telephone book or on the court’s website. Plan to visit a State or Federal court to observe a criminal trial or multiple trials. Be careful to ensure that you are watching a trial, and not sentencing or motion proceedings. You can most easily identify a criminal trial by the jury in the courtroom and witnesses being interrogated by a prosecutor and a defense attorney in front of the jury. It is also acceptable to watch a “bench” trial (where a judge rules on the facts – no jury is present); be careful to ensure that you are watching an actual trial. The court’s docket will be listed on the court’s website, and information about a particular trial, including court filings and briefs, may be available as well. One good source of information is the court’s resources for media, which may include a summary about a particular case of interest.
2.Keep in mind that some trials can be brief – lasting only 2-3 hours. Also, many juvenile proceedings remain closed to the public. Trials can be cancelled at the last minute, so take care in scheduling. You may wish to contact the clerk of the court for assistance in planning your visit.
3.Once you have completed your observation, write a paper discussing your experience. In your paper, you should answer the following questions:
a.Describe the proceedings that took place and discuss any comparisons with material from the Required Readings.
b.How did the trial differ from what you expected? If it did not differ from your expectations, explain as well.
c. How would you evaluate the various actors (courtroom workgroup and witnesses) involved in this trial? Be sure to include observations about the judge, the attorneys, the court staff, the defendant, and the demeanor of witnesses who testified.
d. In your opinion, was the trial an efficient way to resolve the type of case you observed? Why or why not?
4. Be sure to include detailed information in your bibliography about when and where you did your observation (what type of courthouse, case, charges against the defendant(s), date and location of observation, docket number, judge’s information, etc.).
Please refer to the rubric on the following page for the grading criteria for this assignment.
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