One of the first big moments of my internship was when I got to observe a criminal court hearing in a young offenders courtroom. This specific section of the courthouse dealt with offenders who were charged as adults but were around the age 15 and 16.
I was waiting for another case to be called, so I sat in. The court room was packed. Many teenagers were there waiting. A case was called in and 11 family members related to the defendant were brought in to be introduced to the judge. The boy was walking into the court room wearing handcuffs. He was 17 years old. His grandma was his guardian. He had a girlfriend and a 7 month old baby boy there waiting and watching. Other family members were there like his sister, brother and aunts. The defense attorney talked about how although his charges were serious that he has a really strong family support system and was accepted into a work program to work 5 days a week if he were to be released while awaiting trial. His charges were in relation to an incident where he allegedly shot one bullet into a area full of people after he was shot at by someone else. The defense attorney asked the judge for the defendant to be released while awaiting trial because the process would take so long. She pointed out his family members, especially his son. She made it clear he wasn’t a flight risk and would always come back to court.
The prosecutor talked about how it was such serious charges against him and said it didn’t matter about his family and that it is a safety issue. Originally his bond was set for $75k. I sat watching while his family members stood next to me crying and listening to details of the case being discussed. His girlfriend had someone take the baby outside and she listened to the discussion of his case while crying. It was a very tense moment in the room. After hearing from the work program representative, the judge spoke. The judge said that he would release the kid to the work program and that he must follow all directions of the program and never miss a court date. The judge was stern with him and made sure he would comply with all of the circumstances. While the judge was talking, the court officers took his handcuffs off. When the judge finished talking, the boy stood up in his jail outfit and walked towards the back of the courtroom to go greet his family members. His family members were crying tears of joy and yelling with excitement inside and outside the courtroom. I watched the boy walk out of the court room with his family and embrace them outside of the court room. I watched him grab his baby to hug him. Him and his family seemed so happy.