- 1 of 1 Photos | View More Photos
MILLERSBURG -- It's a window into the world of the American legal system.
A group of eighth-graders from Mount Hope Elementary on Wednesday, May 10, toured the Holmes County Courthouse, the last step in a lengthy historical study of national, state and local government. It's an annual trip social studies teacher Miriam Kratzer has made with students for around a decade.
"This gives us a window into what's happening locally," she said, adding, "You see a lot."
Their tour, which first took them to all three courts, culminated on the first floor in Holmes County Municipal Court, where they watched a stream of defendants make their initial appearance in court, where they were arraigned on criminal charges.
In advance of the hearings, the students spoke briefly with local attorney Paul Miller, Judge Andrew Hyde and Assistant Prosecutor Matt Muzic, who discussed court procedure, charging decisions and potential resolutions to cases.
They also discussed a recent criminal case in which the criminal charge to which an Amish man pleaded guilty was dismissed and replaced with a lesser charge to better fit the law.
Since his appointment to the bench in November, Hyde said he's grown more comfortable with the idea of donning a judge's robe, knowing it helps to separate himself, professionally, from his profession.
Already he's come to appreciate that sometimes following the law means going against what you want to do, in rendering decisions and imposing punishments, especially when he doesn't always agree with the laws he's been charged with enforcing. "It's my job to make sure the laws are applied properly."
"It's kind of fun and kind of scary at the same time," he said, adding, "When you know it's your job to protect the public, it's easy to do."
He said many of the criminal cases that come before him involve drugs or alcohol and, regardless of the motivation or extenuating circumstances, "there have to be consequences for doing wrong things, which is why most of us don't do them. But, people who abuse drugs and alcohol don't always think about that."
Muzic said he handles cases from start to finish, in some instances even before he sees a report.
It's his job to make a charging decision, based not only on what he believes happened, but what he's able to prove.
It's a situation that can be complicated by a witness or victim who becomes uncooperative during the process, added Hyde, noting the prosecutor often can be torn between the need to charge and bring justice to the situation and the dynamic emotions of those involved.
"I enjoy putting my education to use to protect the victims and uphold the law," said Muzic, noting, "When everybody tries hard, the system really works."
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or email@example.com.