I went down to the Fresno County courthouse to watch some court proceedings. The first courtroom I enter was pack standing room only there was a voir dire preceding taking place. Both the prosecutor and defense attorney were questioning potential jurors for a DUI trail. After about fifteen minutes, I left for a different courtroom. The second courtroom I entered was a murder case preceded over by Judge W. Kent Hamlin. The African American man was being tried for allegedly shooting two women and attempted robbery.
Since the crime had taken place in Fresno, CA jurisdiction was set in this county. The prosecutor was Jenkins and his adversarial courtroom partner was defense attorney Vagness. The prosecution first witness was Mary Markuez she was a lay witness, before she gave testimony she was sworn in. She gave her personal account of what she had heard and seen on the day in question. When the prosecution was finished with his line of questioning, the judge asked the defense if they would like to cross, he did.
Then the prosecution re-crossed the witness, making sure she restated what she had seen and heard. On the cross-examination and re-cross there were several objections that were sustained and over ruled. The jury was made up of mostly women, and there was only one African American male. Thus, I felt this was not a jury of his peers. As the bantering went on between both sides, I felt the women on the jury had made up their minds for guilty. Several of the women I noticed starred at the defendant.
The next witness call to the stand was Detective Andre Benson of the Fresno police department homicide/felony assault unit, and a member of the special weapons and tactics (S.W.A.T.) team. He had been previously been sworn in. During the cross-examination of the detective, the defense tried to catch him perjuring himself several time with no success. The detective did note when taking in the defendant he performed a Terry search. Detective Benson also went on to say, he performed an “Infield show-up” at the hospital with one of the victims who identified the defendant. Earlier in the courtroom Mrs. Markuez pointed out the defendant as the same person identified in the hospital.
After lunch, I went into Judge Penner’s courtroom where they were having arraignment hearings. The first case called up was Hector Heredia; a continuance was sought by his attorney to pursue several options. The judge asked if there were any objections from probation or district attorney, they said no. Next up was Jeffery Thorson, who was there for multiple cases. He plead guilty to all charges, his probation was revoked. In the courtroom his defense attorney and the DA worked a plea-bargain deal reducing the extended time sought by the DA.
Overall I loved being at the courthouse, it only helped to remind me why I want to become an attorney. I still have not decided whether I want to be a prosecutor or defense attorney. Gandhi once noted, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” This class in combination with the court visit has made me with my choice to attend law school.