Judicial system discussed at MSP Citizen’s Academy

NEGAUNEE — Week Six of the Michigan State Police Citizen’s Academy brought a new face to the session as Probate Court Judge Charles Nebel talked about the court system.

So far in class, participants of the MSP Citizens’ Academy have learned about behavior that gets people arrested in a variety of situations. Today Judge Nebel turned the tables to explain the after math of an arrest in the judicial system. Judge Nebel opened up the floor for questions immediately, letting the discussion advance naturally at the pace the class needed.

“I hope that they got their questions answered, because a lot of time people don’t understand the legal system,” Michigan State Police Trooper Stacey Rasanen said. “They feel like they’re getting breaks when they shouldn’t get breaks. So they could ask those questions and understand that there is a system that defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys and even judges have to follow – they’re not shooting from the hip, that there are actually guidelines that they follow.”

Questions focused on a range of different topics from jury selection and trials to the juvenile system and plea agreements. Judge Nebel, who has a lengthy history as a defense attorney, was able to answer various questions and pull real life examples from U.P. cases as well as national cases like the OJ Simpson trial. Trooper Rasanen said getting this information from a reliable source who sees both angles of the courts is beneficial not only for citizens, but officers as well.

“When I first became a trooper, it seemed like there was some injustice that wasn’t getting taken care of,” Trooper Rasanen said. “Now that I’ve been there and done it, I see that there is a system, it’s out there and people do have the right to a defense attorney.”

Along with answering a slew of questions from participants, Judge Nebel also spent time on witness etiquette at the stand, which he said he advises witnesses be truthful, don’t act as an advocate and keep statements as concise and unambiguous as possible. Officers are often called to stand as witnesses as they are generally the first people a crime gets reported to.

“We have to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt and they hold us to a high standard,” Trooper Rasanen said. “That’s our job to make sure that court case is solved for those people and that’s what we’re out there to do – do our job and do it to the best of our ability.”

The academy is winding down with just two more sessions this summer. Next week, troopers will be discussing criminal investigations.