On Thursday, November 7th, 2013, I attended the San Luis Obispo Superior Court House, and was fortunate enough to witness first-hand what takes place within the legal environment of a trial. I went over to department 6 at first, where probational court appeared to be taking place. After observing not much going on, I swiftly asked a bailiff near me which department I should observe, and he directed me to department 7, where a homicide case was finishing up. I showed up just in time to listen to the closing arguments of this two-week long jury trial. Case number F482473, People vs. Jerad Cross, was in pursuit of charging the defendant Jerad Cross of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The incident that took place on November 8th, 2012 in Paso Robles, CA was just now concluding 364 days later. However, before going into details of my observations within the actual criminal trial itself, I would like to depict the environment (courtroom) in which the trial was being held.
As I walked into department 7, where People vs. Jerad Cross was being held, Judge Jacquelyn H. Duffy was seated in the center of the courtroom, raised above the rest of the courtroom. In David Neubauer and Stephen Meinhold's book, Judicial Process, they give a variety of characteristics and responsibilities that judges have. They specifically state that the primary responsibility of trial judges, like Judge Duffy, is to serve as an umpire. "Judges are expected to be neutral and not intervene to the undue advantage of either side." (194) Judge Duffy's presence seemed to be strong, and I could instantly tell she was committed to making sure this trial ran smoothly. Below the judge, and to her side, were who I believed to be the court clerk and reporter. Standing tall towards the right side of the courtroom was the bailiff, Mr. Wowicki. The professional demeanor of all of these court officials mentioned above was evident from a spectator's point of view.