When we arrived to the front of the courts there was three guys and a women that two cameramen where waiting for to take their picture. No one really knew why she was there and the cameramen really would not tell us anything but her name. It was just interesting to see a situation like that because in the little town of Chadron something like that would never happen. After walking through security we sat down and was informed the way that this court system works. Their court system is completely different then the court systems back in the states. For instants someone that was arrested last night can go to court the very next day. In the states it is not like that as all there is at least a waiting period of a week or so before their hearing. There are cases that are in font of a district court or there is a case in front of the lay judges.
The lay judges is something that we do not have back in the states because it is three volunteers that is advised by a legal adviser to make sure that the decisions that are being made are completely legal. The defendant in these courts have a choice to plead guilty or not guilty which results into the defendant wanting the case to stay in the Magistrate Court or move on to be tried in a Crowns Court. We were able to sit in three different cases with the lay judges. We got to witness a case that the lay judges got to make the sentencing, a case that got moved to be in tried in Crowns Court, and a case that filed for an all options report. The first two cases moved very slowly because the lay judges were struggling with what they were doing and even our guide commented on that. The legal advisor really had to step in and help them out a good amount within the cases.
The case that grabbed my attention was the very last case that we witnessed with the lay judges with a girl that was just three years younger than me. This girl was being charge with five counts of assault against police officers. She pleads guilty to every count and because of that her case was going to be dealt with the lay judges. Her lawyer expressed to the lay judges that she has mental health problems that made her act the way she did because she was having an ‘episode.’ The lawyer decided to go further and tell the courts that her father died because of cancer; which resulted her to be homeless. This girl began to start crying heavily which was for all show because it paused her case for a moment for people to get her tissues and water. Her case continued and the lay judges came to the decision to wait for an all options report to come back to the courts in June. With this being accounted for she got off so easily because in the sates it would be five years for every assault against a police officer.
The reasoning that I named this blog ‘Seeing Myself in a Different Mirror,’ is because a few years ago that could have been me. I did not come from a stable home just like she did not as well. I was her age and I could have easily chose that path as she did of acting out by assaulting officers when she got caught for disobeying the law. It is easy to blame it on mental health issues when life is out of control, which can result from being in an unstable home. I guess I saw myself in her and realize that I could have chose a terrible path and at the same time I wanted to be able to show her that cause she has no family does not mean her life has to be the way she is making it out to be. I think I looked at this case in a personal view more than anything else.
We ended our tour of the courts by watching a district judge moving a case to a different date because the defendant was not there to attend. Our guide found out that the defendant was arrested in a different area. Just watching the little bit of what the district judge did, he moved so much faster then what the lay judges did. I believe that it is because the district judges are formal lawyers and have a better idea of the court systems and regulations that there are. All of the information that we learned that day about the Magistrate Courts was so educational and interesting to compare to the court system to see the differences and similarities between the two. I have a much better view of how the court systems work in the United Kingdom.