Students get front row seats for appeals case - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Students get front row seats for appeals case

By Mike McDaniel - bio | email | Twitter

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It's not your typical court room setting, although the case is very real, so are the judges and so are the lawyers.

Sleeseman says, "It's important that we understand how the justice system works and this is a great opportunity for students to get to see that in action," said USM political science senior Hollie Sleeseman.

This is what happens when the Mississippi Court of Appeals takes their cases on the road and opens the proceedings to the public.

"There's a lot of information that people feel like they don't need to know, but that they should know at the same time," said USM Junior Jairus Austin.

It's part of the state's court on the road program where Thursday afternoon the three-judge panel turned Ballroom I at the Thad Cochran Center on USM's campus into an all out court room, gavel and all, allowing the public to observe an appellate level proceeding and learn about the operations of the court.

"You read it in text books all the time about how these things work but actually seeing it, it's a completely new understanding," said Sleeseman.

The makeshift court first took on oral arguments from a Forrest County criminal case filed by Kevin Eugene Owen, who was convicted of armed robbery back in July of 2008.

The crime happened back in May of 2007 at this Circle K on Broadway Dr. in Hattiesburg and for the crime Owen was sentenced to 25 years.

In an effort to have the sentence overturned or for a retrial, arguments played out in front of a room of curious students, many of whom plan on careers in the legal field.

"I think it's very helpful, it gives us a lot of insight on how what we're going to be doing in the future," said Austin.

There's no immediate ruling given on the appeal cases, but judges do take the time to talk with students about the appeals process and legal system, all in a courtroom built around education.

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