Superior Court Observation

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Business Law 115
Superior Court Observation
The Superior Court session I observed was an alcohol impairment case. The defendant in this case, had been found guilty in District Court, but had filed an appeal to the District Court’s decision. The morning began with the juryselection process. The potential juror pool began with approximately 30 people. The Clerk of Court, Wendy Williams,drew twelve names at random form a bowl to begin the selection process. Once the initial twelve names were pulled, both attorneys had the opportunity to “interview” thepotential jurors. The prosecution attorney, Emily Cowen, began the process by asking each person to givesome general background information on themselves. This information included where they were from, how long they had lived in the Hendersonville area, their maritalstatus, occupation, etc. After getting this information, the prosecutor asked questions, such as: Did they feel they could hear the case and form an unbiased opinion? Had they ever served on a jury in the past? Had they ever had any negative experiences with any law enforcement officer? Other questions were asked more specifically referring to the DUI, such as: Did they have any family or friends who had been charged with DUI? The defense attorney, J. Michael Edney, then had the opportunity toask his questions. His questions had an emphasis on items such as whether they had a problem with alcohol use, etc… After the initial questioning, three potential jurors were dismissed. One was dismisseddue to being a past victim of a drunk driver. The second was dismissed due to religious beliefs and the third was dismissed by the prosecutor for reasons that were not obvious to an observer. The Clerk of Court drew three more names from the bowl and those potential jurors were basically asked the same questions as the initial twelve. Of this group of three, the defense attorney dismissed two. The first was apparently dismissed because his brother had multiple DUI convictions. The reason for the second dismissal was not obvious. The Clerk of Court then drew two more names. These two potential jurors were questioned in the same manner and accepted by the attorneyson both side. After the jury of twelve was seated, the process was repeated to find an alternate. The purpose if the alternate was to step in if, for any reason, any of the jurors could not serve during the whole trial. The remaining jury pool was excused from the courtroom. The attorney for the Prosecution began with her opening statement, followed by the defense attorney. The prosecution called the first witness, an officer with the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department. The officer was sworn in and then questioned by the Prosecutor about the events of the night when the defendant was placed under arrest. The defense attorney then cross-examined the witness, followed by a prosecution re-direct and then a defense re-cross examination. The witness was then excused. What struck me during the questioning were the actions of the judge. He sat with his head resting in his hand, almost like he was sleeping. However, he did not miss a beat when an objection was made. He either quickly sustained or over-ruled the objection without even raising his head. At this point in the proceedings, the judge called for a lunch recess. He instructed the jury of six rulesto follow during breaks, briefly these were: They were not to discuss the case amongst themselves. They were not to discuss the case with anyone else outside the courtroom. There should be no formation of an opinion until deliberation. They are not to communicate with anyone involved with the case. They should not read or listen to any media coverage about the trial. Lastly, if applicable, there should be no visitation of the crime scene or no independent inquiry. He explained that any violation of these rules would be considered contempt and punishable as so. After the recess, the prosecution...
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