This essay is a Court observational paper that aims at giving an overview of how the Juvenile Court looks like, conduction of the proceedings and how the court handles the minors. The paper also aims at assessing the ease or otherwise of accessing the Court and establishing the Court’s public relation to its visitors. My Court of choice is Macomb Juvenile Court located in Macomb County. My visit to it was on the 19th of May, 2016 where it took about three hours for me observing the Court surrounding and listening to one of the cases that were coming for mention that day.
The Court’s location is at Downtown Mount Clemens in a government complex. The building has a quiet environment and playground that makes it conducive for children. Were it not for its name, one would think it was a school. When going to the Court, I had planned to park at Oakland University then I realized that it will be a long walk to the Juvenile Court. Since I was new to this place, I decided to consult Google maps for direction and the nearest parking areas that were available. From my search, I established that there were parking lots north of the Court building. Then I proceeded to the Court.
Though I got help from Google maps to locate the Court building, on my way I realized that it was easy to find it as some road signs showed directions to the Court. People from this town are also very friendly, the few and one could readily get directions from them. Another thing that made the location of the Court building easier is the fact that its location is not over a populated area. The structure of the Court building stands out over the others around it.
From my observation of the people in this town and the surroundings of the Court, I found them friendly and would not harm anyone except for some few who one will not fail to meet in any large gathering of people. The security of the Court was tight and thorough. Everybody was frisked using metal detectors and luggage checked using x-ray. People with bags were asked to leave them at the luggage bay. Unlike other types of Courts where one could see the heavily armed police officers at the gate and entrance of the Court, one could not see them in this building. I later understood that the absence of the police was strategic so as not to intimidate the children. There were also numerous security cameras inside the building. The security details of this Court made me feel secure completely.
The building itself was magnificent. Its reception had seats and tables where one could sit while seeking for the direction to the courtroom. There were also a lot of children toys, colourful paintings, open spaces where children can play. The Court staff was also very friendly and helpful. They readily guided anyone who seemed stranded by offering to take or lead them to where they wanted to go.
Inside the Courtrooms, different rooms were furnished, painted and decorated differently depending on the age of the children whose case is to be held in that Court room. The room I attended did not have many children items as the minor that were involved were above 16 years. Most of the Courtrooms I got the opportunity to enter before the proceedings started had children dolls, children paintings on the walls and decorated with bright colors such as those painted in a kindergarten school. If the judge was not present, one could assume that it was a classroom. The particular Courtroom I attended had plain white colored walls, video projector, and video reflection paper on the wall where the projector images get cast. There was also a clock wall, loudspeakers and microphones that were used by the judge, prosecutor and the litigants. The room was light, and the process was audible.
Concerning the recording of the proceedings, I learnt that not all juvenile matters were video recorded to ensure the privacy of the children. The case that I attended was a felony and was, therefore, judicial. Recordings were by way of video tapping. Also, the Court reporter was present in the Courtroom. The people that were allowed to access were under strict instructions not to take any audio or video recording of the proceedings. The process of this court requires one to fill a particular form to request for a video of any proceedings. Mathew S. Switalski was the presiding judge of this Court. (Hackel & Mark 2016)
Both the prosecuting and defense Attorneys presented their cases in a very calm manner. They did not ask the accused person questions in a harsh tone. The prosecution attorney was nevertheless cunning and would play around with conniving words whose aim was for the suspects to plead guilty to the charges as read to them.
The matter before the Court involved five juveniles that were arrested and charged a day before for theft and robbery of guns and cell phones from vendors at Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens. The crime allegations were that the accused persons, who were caught on camera, stole items from the seller and left. They returned and stole handguns and long guns. The broken door to the vendor was a factor that informed the prosecution to charge them with a crime of robbery. (Hall & Christina 2016)
The Court clerk started by introducing the bench, the attorneys present and identifying the matter that was in consideration. The clerk after that read the charges to the individual accused person. Individually, the juveniles were asked to plead whether guilty or not. They all pleaded not guilty. The attorneys made few remarks with the Defense Counsel requesting for bond and the prosecution advocate making counter arguments. With a felony charge, it was argued that if the accused persons stole the guns, then they would be dangerous to the public as their intention was not known. The judge denied them bond and sent them to custody awaiting further investigations. A further Mention was scheduled 14 days later when the Bond application shall be re-considered.
At the end of my Court visit, I felt very informed and appreciative of the justice system. Before this visit, I thought that capturing of a person committing a crime was enough proof that a person is guilty, and there was no need of asking such a person whether or not they are guilty. I learnt that every accused person is presumed innocent until the contrary is proven. I also learnt that there should not be any reasonable doubt on conviction, and it is the onus of the prosecution to show the guilt of an offender.