American Political Systems
29 April 2013
Going into this project I had an idealistic view of the court system. I thought of it as this place where justice was served as fairly and equally as possible; the courts to me seemed to be the one branch of government that was the least susceptible to corruption. The judge – being limited by the laws of his/her court – is able to fairly assess each individual case and deliver a justified punishment. Going through this project I learned a great deal about the courts that significantly changed the way I thought about how they function. For the first case I visited a murder trial in the Hamilton County court of appeals on Friday April 26 – unfortunately this was around the fifth trial out of ten and I had a really hard time following what was going on in the case. I originally went by myself but, once I got in the courtroom, I realized that there were a significant amount of students from my class visiting the exact same case, which was a pleasant surprise. This court case actually ended up filling the time requirement in that it started around nine in the morning and went significantly past ten thirty in the morning; I stopped keeping track after that. It was a criminal trial of a murder case that was originally presented on the 12th of April in 2010 for a shooting in Harvey Park. The judge presiding was Robert C. Winkler and the officer’s name was David; the defending lawyer was Dan Burke, his client being Robert Davenport.
Mr. Burke was questioning the only eyewitness about what happened at the scene. During this questioning the witness continued to fall asleep on stand, and gave off the impression that he was under the influence of illegal substances – so much to the point where the defendant even addressed this asking the witness if he shot up before going on stand. As for my evaluation of the case I decided it was hard to tell. I am someone who tries to receive all of the facts before making a judgment, but the fact that an eye witness was available made it seem likely that the conviction was true. However the, seemingly, unstable state of the eyewitness was reason enough for me to not trust what he had to say on stand. This also disappointed me because of what the lawyer, who had to talk to the seniors earlier in the week, had said. He said that it isn’t innocence until proven guilty but rather guilty until proven innocent, and this witness was playing with Mr. Davenport’s life by shooting up before being on stand. This is especially saddening due to the lack of physical evidence that would indicate Mr. Davenport’s guilt. With this lack of evidential support the eyewitness account was all the defendant had in order to help get the truth out and the witness decides his drug usage is more important than the integrity of the justice system. To me this is a very disheartening aspect of the justice system and really gave me a bad taste in my mouth.
Even with the case really diminishing my mind of the court system the lawyers and the judge successfully lived up o expectations. The judge served as a mediator to the trial rather than getting involved and didn’t appear to have a bias towards one side or the other; the defending lawyer was doing his job perfectly, even with the cards being stacked against him with the rather detrimental witness. Both of these people would receive ratings in my book for their conduct throughout the trial. Especially getting a chance to meet one of the lawyers after the court case was cool even though I was only able to be at the part where he gave us the docket for the day.
Since this trial fulfilled my time requirement – and another trial wasn’t going to occur for another couple of hours I decided that getting in a couple of traffic court cases would be easier than waiting around for another big trial. At this court the judge presiding was magistrate Jay G. Littner. The first case involved a man