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Essay Sample about Courtroom Observations

Date published: | Maria Haesen

Posted in: Free Essay Samples
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I visited the Hudson County Superior Court on 11/10/2020 between 9.30 am, and 3.30 am for trial proceedings. Judge Galis-Melendez was the presiding judge for the State of New Jersey vs. Miller, a lengthy trial in which the prosecution presented previous witnesses and medical experts to testify in court.

Galis-Melendez is a middle-aged female judge who appears to be in her early-50s, although age could be quite deceiving. Galis-Melendez wore her traditional judge garment as it is the norm for most judges in New Jersey. The judge exhibited a calm presence in court that assisted in putting lawyers and litigants at ease and assured everybody attending the court session that she would decide issues raised upon reasoned judgment instead of emotions. In this case, Judge Galis-Melendez paid attention to details, possibly to ensure that defendant’s rights were protected.

The courtroom encompassed various attorneys. The prosecutor representing the State of New Jersey County was a white male in his mid-40s. Similarly, the defendant’s lawyers were middle-aged white and male. Both the prosecutor and the lawyers exhibited courteous behaviors during the proceedings as they had minimal interruptions. The proceedings of the day were a trial case. A trial proceeding is when all the facts of a case are heard, and the judge or jury make their final decisions regarding the case. During this process, the accused can waive their rights to a jury trial or seek to have the judge make his ruling in a bench trial.

The litigants included Woodrow Miller, a 29-year old white male, standing trial for first-degree murder charges. He was said to have committed the crime when he was nineteen years and accused of shooting and killing his 17-year-old girlfriend (victim). The incident was said to have taken place between 3.00 pm and 5.00 pm on December 15, 2009. It had initially been thought that Adams had committed suicide. The defense lawyers mentioned the possibility of suicide based on the details of her diary. I noted that Miller had a gunshot wound, which both the defense and the prosecution said was sustained during the fateful incident that led to his girlfriend’s death. The defense also mentioned that Miller was allegedly cheating on Adams, and she could not cope with it. They considered this a possible reason for her alleged suicide by shooting herself. They did not support this view with evidence, though.

Being a criminal court proceeding, I expected it to be intense. Lawyers in such cases often try hard to ensure that they do not proceed to the next level where they will have to fight against more odds and face a more experienced bench. For example, Miller’s defense lawyers argued in favor of Adams’ suicide, while the prosecution lawyers argued that her death was a homicide. What I learned from this first-degree murder trial against Woodrow Miller is that cases involving lovers, spouses, or people in any other close relationship are quite challenging to prove. For that reason, accurate amounts of evidence have to be presented in court to convince the bench that it was a homicide, a suicide, or aggravated manslaughter. From the submissions by both the defense and the prosecution, I understood that the case was at the trial stage because Judge Galis-Melendez read trial charges against Miller. The pre-trial stage seemed to have been concluded, and the judge was convinced that Miller had a case to answer concerning Ms. Adams’ death.

The evidence adduced in the court was both physical evidence, witness accounts, and expert evidence from a forensic pathologist and a neuropsychologist. The forensic pathologist and neuropsychologist was Dr. Zhongxue Hua, who provided evidence testified in favor of the defense lawyers that Adam’s death was not a homicide. The prosecution lawyers challenged the evidence to advance their argument that it was a homicide. In his own words, Dr. Hua testified that Adams’s death was “indeterminate”; hence, he argued that the medical examiner’s report could not be proof that Miller shot Adams in the way he wanted it to appear. The physical piece of evidence in court included Adam’s diary in which she had noted her intent to kill Miller and herself. Although this evidence served to advance the case, they could be challenged given that murder cases require strong evidence.

I observed several legal issues that were contested during Miller’s trial. However, one issue that was challenged was whether there was a struggle between Miller and Adams at the heat of the incident could be a cause to reduce the charges to passion manslaughter. I felt that the judge should have reviewed the evidence in a manner most favorable to Miller (the defendant). However, the issue was not resolved because the defense could not prove beyond the reasonable doubt that Adams’ murder could have been avoided had the two not struggled. Also, the defense lawyers did not raise any objections on the matter.

In my honest opinion, the trial was not fair and just. The evidence presented by the prosecution was not conclusive enough to warrant murder charges. For example, I expected a ballistic test, DNA analysis, and blood-splatter analysis to be presented to strengthen the case against the defendant, Mr. Miller. I doubted the thoroughness of pre-trial investigations conducted by lawyers from the prosecution side of the case. Given that scientific medical perspectives are critical in murder cases, I felt that the evidence reviewed in court was quite inconclusive; hence, it could create a reasonable doubt in the judge’s mind.

Miller’s trial was a typical murder trial because emotions ran high though they did not get out of hand. Adams’s parents stood holding each other as her mother occasionally wiped out tears from her eyes. Her mother said amid tears that her life had changed since the death of her daughter. The prosecution’s side, too, seemed to ride on the dynamic nature of a murder trial. They showed Adams’ photographs of the crime scene-inside Miller’s house. The pictures were quite graphic, and they exerted a severe emotional effect in the courtroom.