Watching a Real Life Episode of Law and Order


Jordyn Konefsky, Guest Writer

On Wednesday, March 13th, Ms. Cutrone’s AP Government classes took a field trip to the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, where they were able to watch the trials of two cases and ask a judge many questions concerning the nature of judicial processes. This particular courthouse resonated with the group since it was the scene of the trial of the notorious Mexican drug lord, El Chapo, just several weeks before. Given that the students knew it was a federal courthouse (therefore federal court cases would be heard), they were jumping with anticipation. The whole bus ride there, the students were buzzing with speculation as to what kind of cases they might get to witness. Some of the students thought it would be a murder case, while others were expecting major robberies. All the chatter led to excited conversations about Law and Order and Criminal Minds with the hopes of actually getting to see the real live versions of the episodes they had seen.

As the buses unloaded the students, they were told to be quiet and proceed in an orderly fashion through security, and afterwards were made to leave their phones in a bin until the end of their trip. Initially, the students weren’t happy about this, but they  realized that the phones were confiscated since what they were about to see was confidential and the court couldn’t risk teenage temptation to take pictures or videos of any of it.

The class watched two trials. The first one involved a previously convicted felon who was recently arrested for the possession of a firearm, which is in violation of his probation. Ms. Cutrone told the students of the importance of the authorities explaining the rights in a comprehensive manner along with ensuring that the accused thoroughly understand what is being presented to them. In this particular situation, the students were generally disappointed because they didn’t get to see how the case ultimately played out; the actual sentencing was not scheduled until June. Some students were intrigued by the atmosphere of the room when this case was being presented.  “I thought that the first case was really emotional even though it was a serious offense. The age of the man and his background touched a lot of people in the room and made them feel upset for the man even though he committed a felony,” Olivia Pizzurro (’20) said.

However, in the second case, the class got to see how the sentencing process actually works. The case was about a man from Montenegro who came over to the United States and seemingly found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Specifically, he was associated with a group that was involved in money laundering related to selling drugs, but fortunately for him, he only participated in a relatively inconsequential part of the crime. As a result, he was granted two years probation along with a fine, which in the grand scheme of things, was better than time in prison.

At the conclusion of the two cases, the students were able to convene in a different vacant courtroom where they had the opportunity to ask a judge questions about various topics relevant to many of the things that they had learned in the classroom. This enhanced everything that Ms. Cutrone had previously taught throughout the course. “I was very intrigued by the lawful process that criminals undergo in order to receive a sentencing,” says Chris Elian (’19). Overall, the adventure to the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse brought to life the students’ education concerning the judicial system and the legal process, and gave them a chance to live through an episode of Law and Order. Elian continues, “Being there to witness it was a much more involved experience than learning about it in a class or watching something about it.”