AP Government Field Trip Takes Students Inside Federal Court Sentencing

AP GOVERNMENT STUDENTS GET A GLIMPSE INSIDE FEDERAL COURT -- (Left to right) Seniors Deanna Wnuk and Zeena Whayeb enjoy their free pocket Constitution and water bottle from federal court.

Preston Fore

AP GOVERNMENT STUDENTS GET A GLIMPSE INSIDE FEDERAL COURT -- (Left to right) Seniors Deanna Wnuk and Zeena Whayeb enjoy their free pocket Constitution and water bottle from federal court.

Preston Fore, Editor-in-Chief

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A big part about learning about government and democracy is seeing it in action, and that is exactly what the AP U.S. Government and Politics students had the opportunity to do. This past Monday, November 8, the class took a field trip to the United States District Court for the District of Eastern Tennessee, in downtown Chattanooga.

The students had the opportunity to witness the sentencing process of three different cases.

“The first case was an illegal entry into the country. [The defendant] was from Mexico, but had already severed five to six months in prison. We even had to use an interpreter on the phone from Nevada,” explained Danielle Hooper, Central’s AP Government teacher. “He was sentenced to eight months total in prison for his crimes, so once he serves the remainder of his time, he will be deported.”

The next sentencing was for an unnamed violence charge where the individual was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

“The last case was against a man nicknamed Big Mike. He was among 15 or so other people charged for traffic meth[amphetamine], but he was changing his plea to guilty,” recalled Hooper. “The judge went into grave detail about how he would be waiving his right to a trial by jury, etc. In the end, he was sentenced to 20 years to life in jail.”

After the cases, students then were able to meet with the judge and ask questions.

“Court was really cool and definitely exceeded my expectations,” stated Senior Hanton Guerrero. “My favorite case was the last one when we found out the meth guy had turned himself in and pled guilty.”

Many of the students were shocked of how surreal the sentencing was, including how the convicts came out in shackles.

“I enjoyed listening to the backgrounds of each court case,” said Senior Deanna Wnuk.

Overall, students were able to see the legal system in action and learn about the judicial system first hand. Plus, students were educated about the courts and the unique aspects of being able to serve on a jury in the United States. While this right is sometimes taken for granted, it is vital for the life of the Constitution and democracy as a whole.

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