Saturday, June 24, 2023

How I Prepare a Course - An Example with Training Prosecutors in Presentation Skills


The genesis of this article lies in the title of a magazine report: "Ten Hours of Preparation for a One-Hour Class, and a Pen and Paper Can Make the Classroom Exciting." Therefore, I'm sharing with you, using a recent example - the opportunity to act as a presentation coach for the national judiciary elites, the prosecutors - how I prepare for a course. If you've missed the previous episodes, here's the first part: Pre-class Preparation + Understanding the Work of Prosecutors.

This next part talks about the "Lay Judge Mock Trial", which is what I observed when I entered the courtroom after all the pre-class preparation. If you're interested in the lay judge system, which will be implemented in a little over a year's time (January 1, 2023), please continue reading:

But before you start reading, let's clarify three things as additional information:

1. The goals of presentation, teaching, and public speaking are different! A presentation is intended to "persuade", teaching aims to bring about a "change" in students, while public speaking often falls somewhere between the two. Please refer to the article: What are the Differences Between a Presentation, Teaching, and Public Speaking?

2. Although many teachers have heard of or learned about the "Systematic Course Design: ADDIE", have you really solidly applied it in practice? Perhaps as you read this series of articles on "how I prepare a course," you might consider... Which step of ADDIE am I in, as written in my article?

3. I have not received any promotional fees from the government or the Ministry of Justice! Nor have I collaborated with public sectors in the past. This time, it's purely because of my support for the prosecutors who represent justice that I've had these experiences. All the insights and ideas expressed here come from my personal participation and reflection. "To understand is to support" - there's still a group of very diligent civil servants working hard for us!

Stepping into the Lay Judge Mock Court

Although I had done some groundwork and roughly understood the lay judge system's appearance, I believed that I could understand it better if I participated on site! In preparation for the implementation of the lay judge participation system from January 1, 2023, the Judicial Yuan and the Ministry of Justice have begun many lay judge mock court sessions, hoping to gain experience through simulation and ensure smoother operation when formally implemented!

After learning this information, I asked Deputy Minister Deng of the Ministry of Justice (one of the key figures in this event, the other being Deputy Minister Li!) and Officer Xie to arrange for me to participate fully in the lay judge mock court... I sat in the courtroom for three days, observing the entire trial procedure. At this moment, the "nouns" that I had in my mind turned into real "verbs"! (Also, congratulations to Deputy Minister Deng Qiaoling for being honored as the representative of the National Model Civil Servant of 110! Out of 360,000 civil servants nationwide, only 6 were selected!)

Court Comprised of Three Professional Judges and Six Lay Judges

On the first morning, lay judges were selected (through group questioning, then individual questioning, and then random drawing, six were chosen from about 60 people), and the trial process officially began in the afternoon.

In the future system, the lay judges will sit on the bench alongside the professional judges, listening to the explanations of the prosecution (prosecutor) and the defense (lawyer) in the courtroom. After understanding the case, examining the evidence, and clarifying doubts, they will make a ruling on the third day. The trial, including conviction and sentencing, is voted on by the three professional judges and six lay judges. A majority vote (including one vote from the professional judges) is needed for a conviction to stand. The duration of the sentence is also decided jointly by the judges! (This is very different from the jury system!)

The Importance of Courtroom Expression and Presentation

Since a judgment has to be made within three days, and the lay judges only begin to understand the details of the case once they arrive at the courtroom, the clarity of expression by both the prosecution (prosecutor) and defense (lawyer) in the courtroom becomes paramount! If they can clearly express the details of the case, the evidence, and even how the law stipulates, allowing the lay judges to understand and make judgments, then their courtroom presentation becomes vital!

For example, in this mock case that I participated in, it involved determining "intentional" versus "negligent" actions. What defines "intentional"? What qualifies as "negligent"? These are specified by law and must be determined based on actual evidence. However, the relevant legal provisions may not be understood by the lay judges. Similarly, the evidence related to the case is first seen by the judges in the courtroom... In the limited time, it is crucial to condense the main points, simplify complexity, and help the lay judges understand: Is the prosecution’s (representing the victim and the state) accusation valid? Or is the defense's (representing the defendant) argument or explanation more justified? To put it in layman's terms: in the mock case that I participated in, was it "intentional" or "negligent"? Whose evidence is more valid? This relies on the lay judges' judgment within three days!

Trial Process: Opening Statements, Evidence Investigation, Arguments for Sentencing

By watching on site, I gradually gained some insight and better understood the arrangement of the trial process. The trial process is clearly and carefully stipulated, and I've simplified it into three main stages: opening statements, evidence investigation, and arguments for sentencing.

1. "Opening Statements": The goal is to let the lay judges understand the upcoming trial process and have an initial understanding of the entire case.

2. "Evidence Investigation": As the case might be complex, the investigation of evidence is divided into "undisputed matters" and "disputed matters". "Undisputed matters" are like the foundational facts of the case that allow the judges to understand the situation. "Disputed matters" are where the prosecution and defense have differing opinions and need to present their respective evidence for the lay judges to judge.

3. "Arguments for Sentencing": At the end of the trial, "arguments" are scheduled, including conclusions, responsibility, and sentencing recommendations, to inform the lay judges (and professional judges) of the conclusions each party believes are appropriate, serving as a reference for the judges' decision.

Of course, the above processes are presented in a simplified way for everyone's understanding. In the detailed process, there are many more regulations, such as the initial reading of the indictment, final deliberation, and judgment... The entire process aims to prevent wrongful conviction and leniency and ensure fair judgment!

Amateurs in Court, Experts as Consultants

Even though it's a mock court, everyone follows the real process, with real cases, real evidence, and even the simulated defendants and witnesses are played to such a degree that they seem truly authentic! It wasn't until the final day that I found out the simulated defendant was played by a senior lawyer! (How impressive!) The prosecution and defense's attacks and defenses in court did not slack off simply because it was a mock trial; everyone was fully prepared!

Although I have had experiences in the courtroom before (due to family matters, accompanying friends), spending three consecutive days inside a courtroom was an entirely new experience!

What's more special is that the individuals accompanying me were highly professional prosecutors and judicial personnel. This included two Deputy Ministers from the Ministry of Justice: Deputy Minister Lee and Deputy Minister Deng, commentators for the session: Prosecutor Liao from the High Prosecutor's Office and Professor Lin from the Central Police University, the Chief Prosecutor Zhou from the Taoyuan District Prosecutor's Office, as well as Prosecutor Dong and Prosecutor Lin, who were responsible for the public prosecution of the session. Along with the judges, lawyers present on the scene, and the Court President, Chief Judge, and President of the Bar Association whom I had lunch with before the discussion on the last day. Sometimes I can't help but wonder: why am I here?

The good thing is: even as a layman in law, the homework I had done beforehand still came in handy in the courtroom. At the very least, as I watched the entire process unfold, I had a rough understanding of the scene in the courtroom and the upcoming procedures. Plus, I had a group of super professional consultants to ask questions of! Like Prosecutor Liao from the High Prosecutor's Office (former Chief Prosecutor of the New Taipei District Prosecutor's Office), and Professor Lin from the Central Police University - these are battle-hardened professionals! And Chief Prosecutor Zhou from the Taoyuan District Prosecutor's Office, who kindly received and explained the whole process, inviting us to her office for lunch, and used the opportunity to help this legal novice continue understanding the details of the trial. Not to mention the two busy Deputy Ministers, who made special trips to the courtroom multiple times to personally explain the details to me.

Stepping into the Courtroom to Experience Reality

Of course, legal knowledge is not something that can be fully absorbed in just three days, and that wasn't my mission in attending this session! Because what I wanted to understand the most were the situations and details that lay judges will encounter in the future in the courtroom! My years of experience in delivering presentations and coaching have allowed me to better imagine the feelings and expectations of my audience when they are presented with a briefing. Therefore, sitting in the courtroom, I was perceiving from the perspective of the lay judges. When they hear these legal terms and case descriptions, what would they think? What would they want? What could their reactions be? Most importantly, how should prosecutors speak and act in the future to make it easier for lay judges to understand the case, absorb legal knowledge, and ultimately make a fairer judgment?

After three days of courtroom experience, I gained a first-hand understanding. Although I wasn't sitting on the judge's bench, my thoughts were filled with the situations unfolding in the courtroom, and I made many notes. During the process, my understanding of the role of prosecutors became much clearer.

Speaking for Justice, Advocating for Victims

In prosecution cases, prosecutors act as representatives for the victims! They speak for the victims and embody the state's pursuit of justice! Moreover, throughout the process, they are obligated to investigate both incriminating and exonerating evidence, gather all pieces of evidence together, and prove the defendant has indeed committed a crime and isn't wrongfully accused... The evidence and documentation for each case are so voluminous! Not only is the responsibility of the prosecutors immense, their workload is also tremendous!

At the roundtable discussion after the trial, as I listened and organized my thoughts, more concrete ideas began to form in my mind. For the first time, I learned that the inception of this course was because Deputy Chief Prosecutor Li Haosong of the Ministry of Justice's Prosecutor Department came across my book "Stage Techniques" by chance... But more on that another time.

For three consecutive days, leaving home at 07:00 and returning at 19:00 (with one day directly rushing to a lecture at National Taiwan University), approximately 12 hours were spent each day, making it about 36 hours in total over three days! Add to that the 20 hours of prior preparation, the tally has already reached nearly 56 hours. And up until now... not a single PowerPoint slide has been created! (Shock!)

To be continued!

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