Reaction Paper – Paulding County Court
The court I chose to visit was Paulding County Superior Court, located on Constitution Blvd. in Dallas, GA. The courthouse was built in 1892 and has since been renovated several times. It is a very pretty building and I was excited to go inside and observe. After going through security, I chose a courtroom at random and sat down. It just so happened that I was observing arraignments. This process is the first opportunity a defendant has to encounter a judge after being arrested. Most of the individuals had been arrested the day before and were being arraigned on the following day, which follows the 6th amendment requirements of a fair and speedy trail. The crimes ranged from driving without a license to drug offenses. A large percentage of the cases seemed to be drug related in one way or another.
The assistant District Attorney had the task of presenting evidence against each individual as if it were their actual case and not simply an arraignment. I found the generalizations tedious but the details of each crime were quite interesting and thought provoking. The excuses some of the defendants came up with were so outlandish and I began to realize how frustrating it must be to deal with that all day every day. I silently wondered how the judge could remain so calm. I am not sure I have the personal restraint to work in a courtroom. There were several times I wanted to laugh right out loud and I found it impossible to quit smirking when one particular defendant claimed that she didn’t take drugs on purpose, she tripped and fell and accidentally swallowed a crack rock. When asked where the crack came from she insisted she had no idea. Do the defendants I witnessed realistically portray the “general criminal?”
The sentencing by the judge varied with every case, some defendants plead guilty and were immediately sentenced to jail, others were released ROR, pending a future court date. Of course Miss “I accidentally swallowed a crack rock” plead not guilty! What I found amazing was that after an hour or so there were no cases left to hear. Everyone in the courtroom workgroup took a seat and the judge pulled out a newspaper and began catching up on the daily news. I guess I was surprised that there were so few cases to hear. Every personal experience I have had in a courtroom have been preceded by hours of waiting. It seemed as if there was a never ending flow of cases to hear. I never imagined that criminal court would conclude so quickly. I decided to try another courtroom.
Across the hall, I observed the last part of an aggravated assault and battery case. This was the defendant’s second time in court for domestic abuse and the judge seemed angry about that fact. The wife was there “standing by her man” wearing the bruises to her face and body, almost proudly. I found that very sad. I wanted to talk to her. Ask her why she felt she deserved to be abused. Find out what kind of a childhood she had and when her “knight in shining armor” started knocking her around. After several moments in deep concentration, imagining the conversation that would never take place, I realized I wanted to “fix” her. Yet another pitfall of my personality in relation to a career in the court system. The judge finally sentenced the husband to, 30 days in jail and 100 hours of community service. I would have liked to see him suggest counseling for the wife but I guess that’s not his place.
Overall, I had a very successful trip to the Paulding County Courthouse. I enjoyed listening to the proceedings and realizing that working in a courtroom is definitely not for me! I have chosen forensics as my concentration in Criminal Justice at AIU and today’s assignment confirmed that it is the right career choice for me.