The CHS Business Law class visited the Columbia County Courthouse on January 10 to witness a day of activity in a real-life trial. The Honorable Jonathan Nichols presided over the criminal case in which a defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance, tampering with evidence, and intent to sell.
Prior to when the day's witness testimony began, the class was allowed to enter the courtroom and were the only spectators. Bailiff Stelling shared some information with the class about what to expect, when to stand, the areas of the courtroom, and the rules/formalities of the facility. Hon. Nichols then had a conversation with the class about the case they were about to see, who the key players were, and what had already happened in the days preceding their visit. He courteously encouraged students to ask him questions while there was time before the jury arrived and the attorneys began. Students took full advantage of the opportunity and learned a great deal.
To the pleasant surprise of the class, when both the Assistant District Attorney, Ryan Carty, and Criminal Defense Attorney, Howard Greenburg, arrived, they too had a discussion with the class and answered questions. Their candor, insights, patience, and sharing of knowledge was amazing. One student later realized that the defense attorney was a famous attorney from NYC once called "The Real Better Call Saul" lawyer.
After everyone in the courtroom stood while the jury took their positions, Carty began his direct examination. The class observed the manner in which direct examination questioning must be conducted to create a case with the intention of proving without a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty. They observed Greenburg's pointed cross-examination questions that hoped to raise sufficient doubt in the minds of the jury members. Witness testimony included several law enforcement individuals, including the officer who made the arrest, an individual who transported the controlled substances, and an expert witness who was the scientist who tested the drugs, confirming their chemical nature.
When court took a recess for lunch near 1:00 p.m., the jury members exited. Hon. Nichols, ADA Carty, and Mr. Greenburg all stayed behind to answer any additional questions from the students before the class needed to return to the school. Students were even able to meet Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka, who shared some information of his own with the students.
Mr. Loomis said, "This was an absolutely perfect field trip for the class. In just a few hours, they were able to see and learn so much. I am very thankful for the judge and attorneys volunteering time to interact and answer questions from the students. This is the type of real-world learning experience I hope my future business law students can take advantage of every year."
Though the students weren't able to learn the verdict of the trial during their visit, they subsequently learned the result. The defendant was found guilty of two of the three charges: possession and evidence tampering. The "Real Better Call Saul" was able to help exonerate his client from the third charge of intent to sell, however.
Business Law students will try their hands in a mock trial on March 15th to be held at the Chatham Village Court in the Tracy Memorial Village Hall. Class members will be split into a prosecution team and a defense team. Members of the National Honor Society will make up a majority of the jury and senior Wil Spencer will be the presiding judge.
ABOUT CHATHAM BUSINESS CLASSES
Mr. Loomis teaches all of the business classes in the high school at Chatham. Though all of the classes are electives, his classes are very popular. In addition to Business Law, Loomis is currently teaching Financial Literacy, Computer Applications, Accounting, and Theater Production & Marketing this semester. Last semester he additionally taught Introduction to Business. Courses offered in alternating years include Sports Marketing, Management & Leadership, and CEIP (Career Exploration Internship Program). Three of the courses offer college credit through Columbia Greene Community College - Computer Applications, Accounting, and Business Law.