October 11, 2022
The second step in our journey through the incarceration process involves the prosecution and courts! We had an excellent opportunity to have a Walker County Courthouse tour, one led by County Court at Law Judge Tracy Sorensen. To discuss the prosecution side of things was Jennifer Jenkins, Senior Felony Prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Office. Every participant walked into the courthouse excited to hear the inner workings of a court from a judge’s and prosecutor’s perspectives.
Starting with the County Court at Law courtroom, Judge Sorensen explained her defense attorney days, as well as her two terms as Judge.
She oversees and handles cases involving juveniles, probates, child custody, and adult misdemeanors in the County Court at Law. Judge Sorensen has a trial jury of six total jurors in the issues that make it to trial.
We were even being taught scenarios about some instances that Judge Sorensen could hear and Prosecutor Jenkins might prosecute. For example, one of the students in Beyond Bars, Rachel Hill, was kind enough to let Professor Yawn use her as an example of a college student caught with less than a gram of marijuana.
Judge Sorensen and Jenkins mentioned they could probably reach a deal, one that might allow for a deferred adjudication, allowing Ms. Hill to keep this incident off her record. This made Ms. Hill very happy.
It was interesting to hear how the process works, while also getting advice from both Ms. Jenkins and Judge Sorenson.
Making our way up to the other side of the courts is the District Court, where Judge Hal Ridley and Judge David Moorman preside when in Walker County. These courts are physically larger, with space for a larger audience and 12 jurors. Portraits of prior judges are hung in the room, along with a portrait of Sam Houston.
While in this room, we shared our experiences of being a juror.
One of our participants, Steve Covington, discussed the time when he was selected to be on a jury hearing a pornography charge. As a juror, he was “forced” to watch hours of pornography in the jury room (with a jury consisting mostly of older women) to determine whether the content was criminal.
Ms. Jenkins and Judge Sorensen were kind enough to join us for dinner at Sam’s Table, where we all had a variety of Sam’s Table’s special menu items such as the Caprese Panini, Sams’s Secret Burger, and the Casado. Everyone enjoyed their meal while they had the opportunity to ask more questions about what it is to be a prosecutor and judge.
We took in new information from the tour and dinner; for that, we would like to thank Judge Sorensen and Ms. Jennifer Jenkins! It was fantastic getting to know more about the prosecutions and courts.