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Courthouse visit encourages civic learning

Before beginning a unit on judicial procedures, both the first and eighth period Civics classes traveled to the Superior Court of California, County of Fresno, located in downtown Fresno, for a field trip, Oct. 26. Students were able to experience a typical day at a courthouse where drug, traffic, criminal and civil cases take place.

Once students arrived, they walked through security, and met on the seventh floor where they received a demonstration from Judge Hilary A. Chittick, her assistant, a court reporter and a bailiff.

“This trip was very important and effective for the Civics classes,” Robert Foshee, Civics teacher, said. “It’s one thing to learn about court procedures and rules at school, but when students can leave the classroom and see what they’re learning first hand, the information makes a big impact. While at the courthouse, students could see real court cases affecting real people’s lives.”

At this demonstration, students were able to participate in a mock trial organized by Judge Chittick. Each student was given a random number to signify being called into jury duty. The judge’s assistant then called out 14 students to take place as the jury and seniors Scott Jennings, Brahamjit Randhawa and Jeff Roseth were assigned to be the defendant, defense attorney and prosecutor, respectively.

Immediately, the jury members as a whole were sworn in. Once this action was completed, Judge Chittick began to explain the crime committed by Jennings, which was stealing a Dr Pepper from a 7/11 convenience store. Judge Chittick then explained that during the trial it is very important for the attorneys to describe the crime from all angles, and divulge information, which is important for the jury to make an accurate verdict.

Although some may consider this uninteresting, history teacher Jordana Siebert feels like the presentation was enjoyable due to Judge Chittick’s enthusiasm.

“The judge that talked to us when we first got there was really cool,” Siebert said. “She was funny and very personable and you don?t really think a judge would be so that was cool. The bailiff presentation was good and informative, but I definitely think that the other two outweighed that presentation.”

After the mock trial was complete, students were able to ask Judge Chittick questions, see her office and the jury room, where verdicts are made. Once this part of the tour was complete, students were able to sit in on various trials occurring throughout the courthouse.

Senior Adam Wood considered the field trip to be successful and concluded the highlight of the experience to be sitting in on trials.

?I thought it was really fun and a good experience,” Wood said. “The trip was better than I thought it would be because I thought it would be really boring, but it was actually really exciting and interesting. I wish I could have stayed longer, especially for the trial. My highlight of the trip was sitting in on the trial, which was about a guy who threatened to kill his mother. When the defense attorney spoke it was kind of opposite because apparently his mom only wanted money, but that?s not what the guy said so it was very interesting.?

Although some students wanted to continue watching the trials, the next part of the tour was a bailiff presentation. During this presentation, Deputy Sheriffs explained what their job entails while working at a courthouse and clarified that the term ?bailiff? is only used when the sheriff is actually in court. The main purpose of the sheriffs is to maintain safety for all those present at the courthouse.

Following the presentation, senior Jacob Williams was shackled at the hands and feet to demonstrate how difficult it is to walk in chains.

?I thought it was fun being shackled, that?s because I know it’s a demonstration, but I know that it would not be fun in really life,? Williams said. ?I just wanted to experience being shackled because you always hear about it and I wanted to actually do it. And I figured that it’s senior year and that I should do something fun.?

Overall, Siebert considered the trip to the courthouse a success due to the student interest that was generated by the cases.

?I thought that the field trip went really well and that the court case that me and a group of students sat in on was really interesting,” Siebert said. “It took a little while to get started, but once it started I think all of us made up our minds as to who was guiltily and who not and so that was really interesting.”

For more information on FC events, read the Oct. 24 article, Day provides glimpse of school life for grandparents.

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    collin winegardenJan 7, 2012 at 12:02 am

    Sabrina Henderson thought that she was suppost to throw the sponge at my head but she was suppost to sqeeze the water into it……. and then at the end i dumped the water on her 😉