School Gym Hosts Legal Proceedings for Misdemeanor Cases

PSJA Memorial is the third district school to host "Courts in Schools"

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School Gym Hosts Legal Proceedings for Misdemeanor Cases

Lawyers represent three misdemeanor defendants during Friday's Courts in Schools Program.

Lawyers represent three misdemeanor defendants during Friday's Courts in Schools Program.

Karla Carrazco

Lawyers represent three misdemeanor defendants during Friday's Courts in Schools Program.

Karla Carrazco

Karla Carrazco

Lawyers represent three misdemeanor defendants during Friday's Courts in Schools Program.

Josefina Martinez, Writer

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As part of the recently introduced Courts in Schools program designed to educate high school students about the criminal justice system and the consequences breaking the law — on Friday, February 1, the main gymnasium became a court. PSJA Memorial Early College High School became the third PSJA ISD facility to participate in the program.

“I think today marked the beginning of a tradition of a life-long learning experience for students and for adults hosting Courts in Schools, it gave students a first hand look at what judges do, what sheriffs do, what the criminal justice system does and how it works.” Dr. Rowdy Vela, principal, said. “I think it’s important for us to bring that to our students and let them know what is out there and the careers that they can explore.”

Presiding court was PSJA High School graduate Judge Luis Singletary, joined by defendants, attorneys, sheriffs, and representing District 27, Senator Lucio. Acting as the jury and helping with guarding the gymnasium entrances were Wolverine law enforcement students from varying grade levels–all interested in pursuing a career in the criminal justice system.

Three cases were in session, all misdemeanors. Two of them involved charges related to alcohol. Students witnessed the back and forth exchange between the judge, those being charged, defendants, and attorneys.

Representing defendant Felix Torres, who was charged with a state jail felony for his abuse of medical drugs, was PSJA Memorial Class of 2010 Student Council President, now Alamo defense attorney, Arturo Garcia. Garcia is a lawyer based out of the Alamo Law Center.

“This is the first time I was a part of the Courts in Schools program. It was such a great experience; it really showed a lot of students how to improve upon their behavior– if they are having issues with it. So that they won’t end up in jail. They see what happens when you make bad decisions,” he said.

After sentencing, Judge Singleterry stepped down from his bench to introduce himself and address the students. Following were some words from those representing the criminals and those representing the state, all of which gave advice on success and the criminal justice system.

Also present were two individuals involved with the Drug Court Program, which according to Judge Luis Singletarry, is a program designed for rehabilitation to help first time felony offenders. There motto is “stay clean stay sober.” These individuals also addressed the group of students and shared their experiences with the message that trouble is followed by consequences.

“It was a great opportunity for us to see and have the experience of a court session. And it showed us lessons to not drink and drive and to be responsible, and to follow our dreams,” junior America Almanza said about the experience.

Dr. Vela hopes to host the program during the fall and spring semester of next year so that different groups of students looking into the criminal justice system can learn more about the field.

“It is a great program not only do they cover this in books, but students get first hand experience of attorneys and the courtroom,” Joe Hernandez, 92 District Court Bailiff said.