In honor of Constitution Day Sept. 17, Heidelberg University held Court on Campus with Seneca County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steve Shuff presiding Monday.
Shuff held open court proceedings for students, faculty, staff and the community in Herbster Chapel Monday morning. Eight criminal court cases were brought to campus, including cases involving domestic violence, illegal possession of a firearm, early judicial release, receiving stolen property and drugs.
Not on the docket was the pretrial and plea date hearing of Calvin Dixson, charged with aggravated murder and attempted murder. Dixson, who was indicted July 31, is accused of shooting and killing Fostoria resident Lisa Stowers, 50, and seriously injuring her daughter, Tyeesha Ferguson, 36.
PHOTO BY NICOLE WALBY
Seneca County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steve Shuff answers questions from students and explains about constitutional rights and the court process.
Shuff said he met with the prosecuting attorney and Dixson's attorney, who agreed to have the case heard on campus Monday.
During the hearings, Shuff told students to pay attention to the constitutional rights individuals have and their right to representation. Shuff said he has five attorneys who may be appointed to represent individuals who cannot afford attorneys. He said they must fill out paperwork proving indigency.
Between cases, Shuff answered questions, explained each case further and provided examples of past cases.
He explained the importance of serving on a jury, indictments, the grand jury and what he and the attorneys have to look at in each case.
Shuff said everyone is assumed innocent until proven otherwise.
"Don't forget that they are innocent," Shuff said. "All rights are in play."
Many students went on the recommendation of a professor and came away with different views.
Victoria Hofacker, a freshmen majoring in criminal justice and business, went to the court hearings instead of her class period.
"It was very interesting seeing Shuff answer questions and the court process," Hofacker said. "He made it easier to understand and the amount of discretion he had was amazing."
Sophomore Kelsie Vaske, a sports management major, spent the morning observing the hearings and decided to go back for the afternoon session because she found it interesting.
"(Shuff) put out great questions and answers," Vaske said. "There is a lot to know. If we were ever in any type of situation that we would need to be in court, we would know what questions to ask."
Some students, such as freshman Alexis Hollzberger and junior Courtney DeGroat, observed court with an eye to a possible career.
Hollzberger, a criminal justice and psychology major, said she went to the hearings for a class, but wanted to get in touch with the victim's advocate office to see if it would be something she'd be interested in doing.
Susan McCafferty, Heidelberg adjunct professor of the honors program and pre-law advisor, said most students don't get to see the inside of a courtroom and it is great to see the Constitution, judge and attorneys at work and to celebrate the United States Constitution.