Where to sit?

I helped out one of my colleagues earlier this week and covered a criminal sentencing.

It was an interesting change of pace, and when I entered the courtroom, I was confronted with a dilemma: Where should I sit?

Much like churches at a wedding, courtrooms are divided. Instead of the groom’s side and the bride’s side, there’s the prosecutor’s side and the defendant’s side. (Or in a civil trial, the plaintiff’s side and the defendant’s side.)

But what about the neutral parties? Where do they sit?

I’ve been in court a few times before, but never for something as high-profile as this.

This case involved a woman who was shot in the head and survived. Her boyfriend was being sentenced. He likely wasn’t the triggerman, but he was found guilty of attempted murder anyway after his DNA was found on a homemade silencer associated with the shooting.

I didn’t want to side on either side of the room, lest it looked like I was picking sides. If I sat on the victim/prosecutor side, would the defendant’s family and lawyers want to talk with me? If I sat on the defendant’s sides, would the victim’s family think I was sympathetic with them?

Ultimately, I didn’t have many choices in the small courtroom. After the victim’s family and defendant’s family filed in, it looked like there was a little more room on the victim/prosecutor side. I slipped in the last row, next to the aisle.

Fellow reporters, where do you sit in courtrooms? Am I overthinking this?

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4 thoughts on “Where to sit?

  1. In Worcester County Circuit Court, there is a section up front designated for press & law enforcement. I usually sit there, but only because it’s closest to the action – and I need to get close because it’s a big room with a tall ceiling, and people’s voices get lost the farther from the judge’s bench you sit.

    If that area didn’t exist, though, I’d sit as close as possible to the front so I could hear everyone. If anyone accuses you of taking sides based on what side of the aisle you choose, they’re being ignorant. Silly people, tell them, “you can see which side I took in my story tomorrow.”

  2. I ALWAYS thought about this when i was covering court. i actually tried to alternate where i sat, if i was covering something ongoing. even if it wasn’t the same case, i’d try to alternate where i sat, and i tried to stay closest to the center of the room (like, i sat on the aisle seat). this was also so i could get out before the involved parties and talk to them.
    i don’t know if people really noticed where i sat or not, though. probably not. it’s one of those things only we’d care about, i think.

  3. I’ve thought about this, too, but as Pam suggested, I think it’s something only we care about. You have to sit somewhere; no one thinks you’re taking sides. (It’s good that we have that instinct to be and seem fair, though.) Like Lisa, I would sometimes alternate sides during a trial.

    From a strictly practical standpoint, there’s often more room on the defendant’s side in criminal cases, because victims usually have more supporters. Also, for security reasons they don’t let family members sit in the first row right behind the defendant, so that’s usually available for press, attorneys and cops.

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