We took a field trip to the Haidian District Court in Beijing, China a few days ago to view a criminal proceeding. Despite being labeled a field trip, it wasn’t that exciting.
The court room was large and had an abundance of comfortable audience seating. The judge sat behind the bench and two men who I’m told are like jurors sat on either side of him. To the left and right of the judges bench were desks for the respective councils. The defendant sat alone, facing the judge.
Before I get into the details of the trial, here is the link to the pictures I took outside and inside of the court.
The young woman on trial had worked as a cleaning lady for an electronics company and was accused of stealing 46,000 RMB from her employer. She had taken the keys and opened a safe with 60,000 RMB in it. She may have taken rings worth about 80,000 RMB, but I’m not sure because the translation device wasn’t working very well.
The prosecution put forth evidence such as a bank deposit slip showing that the defendant made a deposit of 41,000 RMB, a receipt for the purchase of a plane ticket, and a cell phone bill.
The defense council, who was appointed by the Court, basically argued that her 23-year old client had lived a tough life. Her father had left at a very young age. The girl was cared for by her grandmother after her mother ran off with another man, and the girl had to start working at the age of 13.
We were asked to leave when the proceedings took a recess, so I don’t know the outcome. The experience was interesting despite the technical difficulties of not hearing well through the translation device. There definitely seemed like there was less respect for the defendant and less advocacy. The defendant was situated in a very vulnerable position – on display in from of all council and the judge. Perhaps this is more common than I think, I don’t know. But it seemed biased.