It brought to mind different times in my career (both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney) where I was trying cases when a morning docket was still in progress, and the interesting phenomenon occurred where there would be defendants charged with completely unrelated offenses who found themselves very intrigued by the case on trial. On some occasions, defendants would even approach me and the other lawyers involved in the case and either ask questions or offer words of encouragement as the trial progressed.
The point that Reverend Still mentioned to me was that the prosecutor on the case had cautioned the audience that graphic photos were about to be shown in the courtroom, and that actually made me think of an idea. Ideas are sometimes few and far between for me, so I thought I would post on it.
With budget cuts rampant with the County, and programs like Boot Camp becoming long a thing of the past, why don't judges order that defendants (especially younger ones) watch the entirety of a trial as a condition of their probation (should they receive it)?
Especially a murder trial. Especially especially a murder trial that has some gang ties to it.
So often (as a defense attorney), I find myself explaining to a defendant how a trial would proceed for them if they elected to take their case to trial, and I find them looking at me like my dog does when I try to teach her math. Having to watch a trial would be a tremendous civics lesson to a person who has already found themselves entwined within the Criminal Justice System, and it would be something that they could do at no cost.
It would be a hell of a lot less strenuous than community service, if you think about it.
Let's look at just some of the upsides:
#1 -- if the probationer is watching the Judge of the court of which they are on probation out of, they get a feel for what the Judge would do to them if they were to violate the terms of their probation.
#2 -- they learn the procedure of what can and what can't be done for them when they are charged with a crime.
#3 -- if the case is a violent crime with victims, they get to see something from an outsider's perspective on the effect of violent crime. This could potentially vastly differentiate from their view of crimes related to them, because they have no ties to the case they are watching. They will see scene photographs, pathologist testimony, and victim impact. They might actually identify with the complainant of a case rather than the accused. At a bare minimum, they would get to witness the loss a family can feel.
#4 -- by attending (especially in the court that their probation originates out of), the Judge becomes familiar with them, and they no longer become just a case, but more of a person to that Judge.
I'm feeling a little overly-Pollyanna here with this post, but my experience with those who watch trials is that those same people become emotionally invested in those trials and the outcomes. Those on probation who are involved in gang life can get a nice preview of what their lives would be like if they don't deviate from their current pattern of behavior.
Anyway, it was just a random thought I had, and maybe I'm rambling, but what would be the downside to making a trial a condition of probation for those probationers that we can still reach and make a difference in their lives?
NOTE: For those who would say that it would make them take time out of their jobs or school, etc., I would say that jurors have to take time out of their jobs to serve every day of the week, and for those in school, the condition could be served during their Summer Vacations.
What do y'all think?