I think everyone should have to spend some time down at the courthouse and see what goes on in a courtroom. I think many would be surprised. It is so not like court you see on TV or in the movies, and I bet many would be disappointed.
If you are here in Memphis, then the place to be would be 201. Now, 201 is short for 201 Poplar, lower level. On any given weekday, the lower level is crowded with people who have been charged with all sorts of crimes, from speeding to theft to vandalism. Most people are pleading guilty, some are not. Some show up with lawyers, others will ask anyone in a suit if they will represent them. (I have been asked to represent people myself!)
In four years, I have been subpoenaed to court approximately 50 times, and I have only testified once. Most of the time the defense will wait to see who shows up for court. If no one shows up to testify against their clients, then the judge will dismiss the case. The problem with this is that the whole process takes at least 3 to 4 hours. By the time they get through all the arraignments and other court proceedings, you are so ready to bail! (Like the way I worked the word bail into this?)
While I cannot and will not go into specifics of the court case on Friday, I will say that I did get to testify and I was great! I probably won the case for us with my excellent testimony. So I will enlighten you all on the inner workings of court.
First off, you will receive a subpoena from the Sheriff’s office directing you to appear on a certain date and a certain court. You usually need to show up around 9:30, but you had better arrive early in order to find a parking spot downtown (and be prepared to pay for that parking, anywhere from $7 to $10).
So once you find a parking spot, you get to get in line to go through the metal detectors and security. The line is long and full of very interesting people. (Luckily I have my ID and can bypass the security line) Now that you have made it past security, you get to go downstairs and find the right division or courtroom. Then you wait in line there also, until the deputy says you can go in. Unless you have business in the courtroom, you will not be allowed in the courtroom and you sit where they tell you and you be quiet.
In criminal court, if you have a lawyer, you sit on the right side. If you do not have a lawyer you sit on the left side. If you are a witness or victim you sit in the back left hand side. Law enforcement sits on either side n the rear of the courtroom. After court is called into session and the judge arrives on the bench, the prosecutors then began to scurry to talk to all the victims and witnesses to prep them. Yes prep them before their docket number is called. A lot of times this will be the first time you get to talk to a prosecutor. So then you sit and wait. You can listen to the proceedings in front of you, but it is very hard to hear, and all the in and out of the prosecutors and defense attorneys and deputies is really distracting. Then the judge will take a recess and you wait some more.
So your docket number is called and the case is beginning. Now on a normal prelim, you will get called up to the stand and that’s what you do, you stand right there in front of the judge with the prosecutor on one side and the defense on another and the defendant behind a partition in a prison jump suit. They swear you in (and there is no Bible to place your hand on) and then the prosecutor asks you questions, then the defense asks questions, the judge may ask you questions, then you are finished. Big Deal right?
The most interesting part of court is getting a warrant on someone and getting to go into the courtrooms where they are issuing restraining orders, but that is a different late night post!!